Cynical social media voices can erode trust in news media

November 04, 2019

Amid rising concerns about low public trust in mainstream media institutions, a Rutgers study found that real-life and online social interactions can strongly influence a person's trust in newspaper, TV and online journalism - but when it comes to online interactions, cynical views are the most influential.

The study, published in the Journal of Communication, surveyed 350 students at a group of residential living-learning centers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, in which students with similar academic disciplines live in the same dorms and take classes together, thus forming strong social connections.

Over the course of a semester, the Rutgers researchers found that the strongest social influences on a student's trust in news media come from face-to-face interactions with politically like-minded people. But social media interactions with online contacts were different. Students' views were strongly influenced by online contacts who distrusted the news media, and not by those who had high levels of trust in traditional news media.

"With face-to-face interaction we can choose our conversation partners, but we receive their views without artificial filters and might be swayed by either positive or negative views. But on social media, we can selectively pay attention to some of the stories shared with us and ignore others. People have a known negativity bias, and that makes it more likely that we will notice more the cynical and disparaging posts" said the study's author, Katherine Ognyanova, an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers University-New Brunswick's School of Communication and Information. "This can make it harder to step back and evaluate what we're reading online, and to separate opinion from fact and bias from well-reasoned arguments."

The students answered surveys about their online and offline social networks, and their levels of trust in news media, before the school year began, and again after one semester. Their scores on media trust changed considerably between the first and second surveys.

"The erosion of trust in mainstream news media, especially amid increasing political polarization in the country, large-scale disinformation campaigns and attacks on the press from political elites, is a very real concern for our society," Ognyanova said. "Most of us like to think that we are exposed to a balanced set of views. The truth is that we are more influenced by people who agree with us and share our political opinions. Findings about the outsized influence of cynical views online are also concerning, especially given how much of our social interactions take place on the internet."
-end-


Rutgers University

Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.