Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Social media remains an important source of news and information for Americans, but its growth as a place where people go for information has stalled. Today, “half of American adults get news at least sometimes from social media,” according to a new national survey from the Pew Research Center. However, the share of the American public that uses social media as a source of information has remained about the same over the past three years, reports Pew. This follows a period of rapid growth.
Facebook remains the leader among social media sites as a source of information for American adults. “Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) ‘report receiving regular news from Facebook,’ according to Pew. Facebook is the #1 news source largely because it tops all other media sites social media, excluding YouTube, in number of domestic users Seven out of ten Americans are Facebook users.
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“A quarter of American adults regularly receive news from YouTube, while smaller shares receive news from Twitter (14%), Instagram (13%), TikTok (10%) or Reddit (8%), wrote Pew. in his survey summary. “Fewer Americans regularly receive updates from LinkedIn (4%), Snapchat (4%), Nextdoor (4%), WhatsApp (3%) or Twitch (1).
As social media matures as an industry, like most mature industries, its overall growth has slowed. However, TikTok and Instagram, which attract a disproportionate share of young adults, continue to gain users. TikTok continues to rapidly gain users with 3 in 10 US adults now visiting the site and Instagram’s steady growth continues with nearly half of US adults using it. On these two sites, about half of young adults, aged 18 to 29, who are users, receive news at least occasionally during their visits.
It is true that part of the plateauing of social media as a source of information is the result of a general slowdown in the growth of social media usage in general. But that’s only part of the story. Increased awareness of the amount of disinformation and misinformation available and spread on social media has resulted in social media becoming a less trusted source of news than other media platforms. This distrust is one of the main reasons for the slow growth of social media as a source of information.
A new study from the Reuters Institute finds that “levels of trust in news on social media, search engines and messaging apps are consistently lower than public trust in news media information in general. “. This is particularly the case of political news for which Americans, like the inhabitants of the three other countries surveyed, consider social networks as a “suspicious” source and too often a place of “controversial political conversation” which they prefer. obviously avoid, according to the study.
Unsurprisingly, people who do not use social media platforms for information or who do not use them at all trust the information found on these platforms significantly less than people who visit them regularly for information,
For social media sites to once again produce robust growth in the number of people accessing information on their platforms, they must restore trust in the reliability of the information they provide. This will require doing much more to tackle the disinformation and misinformation that still runs rampant. It wouldn’t just be good for the bottom line of social media companies; it would be an invaluable service to our democracy.
Rob Horowitz is a strategy and communications consultant who provides general counsel, public relations, direct mail and polling services for national and state organizations, various nonprofits, corporations, elected officials and candidates. He is an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island.