Anyone who has spent much time on social media already knows this, but now there’s a study to back it up. Nearly 60% of the time, the person who shares a link to some article on social media didn’t bother reading it before doing so. This is my shocked face.
According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.
Worse, the study finds that these sort of blind peer-to-peer shares are really important in determining what news gets circulated and what just fades off the public radar. So your thoughtless retweets, and those of your friends, are actually shaping our shared political and cultural agendas.
“People are more willing to share an article than read it,” study co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”…But most interesting, for our purposes, is this habit of sharing without clicking — a habit that, when you think about it, explains so much of the oft-demoralizing cesspool that is internet culture. Among the many phenomena we’d tentatively attribute, in large part, to the trend: the rise of sharebait (nee clickbait) and the general BuzzFeedification of traditional media; the internet hoax-industrial complex, which only seems to be growing stronger; and the utter lack of intelligent online discourse around any remotely complicated, controversial topic.
This is very dangerous at a time when headlines are increasingly disconnected from the actual content of the article and are often just an outright lie that is totally unsupported in the article. It feeds into the Dunning-Kruger effect politically, making people think they have the facts straight just from reading the headline when, in reality, they don’t have the facts at all. And please don’t pretend that this is a problem mostly for the right. There is a long and growing list of liberal website that are every bit as bad: PoliticsUSA, Occupy Democrats, Winning Democrats, Forward Progressives, and many others. Their headlines rarely match the evidence in the slightest.
How sad that at a time when we have access to more information at our fingertips than ever before, a great many people are getting nothing but misinformation.