According to a new study, Americans have serious trust issues.
Whether it’s government or social media, it’s now customary to treat everything we read and hear with skepticism. We are also increasingly pessimistic about the ability of social media to provide credible information.
There are solutions to these trust issues, but before we trust social media again, we need to understand the root of our suspicions.
First of all, most of us don’t know how to solve the problem of credibility and dissemination of information on social networks.
A Pew Research Center report released last week found that most Americans didn’t know how social media could improve the quality of information on our feeds.
Facebook and other platforms have been grappling with the “quality” issue since well before November 2016. We just needed a big event like a presidential election to expose the issues with using social media to get all our news.
It’s also no surprise that we’re a little cynical about recent efforts by Facebook and others to spread information from unbiased sources.
Pew Report authors Elisa Shearer and Elizabeth Grieco found that a majority of Americans think “social media companies have too much control over information…and that the role social media companies play in the dissemination of information…results in a worse mixing of information”.
“At the same time, social media has become part of the information diet of a growing portion of the American population.”
This begs the question: how do we solve our trust issues in social media?
It starts with bypassing social media and going straight to trusted sources of information.
I know, I know – that’s rich advice from the guy who touts the virtues of social media on a weekly basis. But if you’re reading this column directly from the source that published it (Tribune-Chronicle, The Vindicator), you’re part of the solution (and thank you for reading).
If we no longer use social media to obtain our information, or if we simply use these platforms as access points to reputable news sites, we have taken the first step in resolving some trust issues.
A second option mainly relies on necessary system changes at the social media platform level, but we can still help you.
Shearer and Grieco noted that most Americans (88%) realize that Facebook and others have some control over the type of news we see. Social media companies are opening their doors to news sites and writing the algorithms to filter the information we see (and filter what we don’t see).
This lack of control over user preferences is a serious problem.
“About six in ten (62%) say social media companies have too much control over the mix of news people see on their sites,” Shearer and Grieco said.
Some platforms like Facebook have installed safeguards and flagging features to limit the amount of questionable news we see, but that hasn’t stopped bad actors from trying to find backdoors in our news feeds. .
It is up to us to help restore trust. When we see “news” on any site – social media or otherwise – examine the quality of the source before liking the content, commenting on it or sharing it with others.
We know there’s a problem, but understanding our options will help resolve some trust issues without just relying on social media to do it for us.
Dr. Adam Earnheardt is director of the communication department at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn. com.