Com0011, Blog 5 — Getting Your News Through Social Media?

You could be trapped in a “collective social bubble”, IU researchers say

I will be the first to admit that one of my sources (but not my only source) of news is social media. I find it the fastest way to get rapidly changing information, whether it is the recent snow storm that crippled Ottawa or a gunman who shut down Parliament and the downtown core. Traditional media outlets—the Sun, Citizen, Metro, CTV, and CBC—have great Twitter feeds that provide up-to-the-minute updates that they cannot provide in print or broadcast.


However, a recent study out of Indiana University (IU) has researchers warning that people who get their news from social media are at risk of becoming trapped in a “collective social bubble”, compared with those using search engines.

The first large-scale quantitative study of its kind looked at the potential social bias of online news-seekers by comparing the diversity of news found on search engines and social media. The researchers analysed web searches of 100,000 IU users between October 2006 and May 2010; a database containing 18 million clicks by more than 500,000 AOL search engine users in 2006; and 1.3 billion public social media posts containing links shared by more than 89 million people on Twitter between April 2013 and April 2014.

In the research paper published in the open-access journal PeerJ Computer Science, the authors write:

“We have presented evidence that the diversity of information reached through social media is significantly lower than through a search baseline. As the social media role in supporting information diffusion increases, there is also an increased danger of reinforcing our collective filter bubble….Given the importance of news consumption to civic discourse, this finding is especially relevant to the filter bubble hypothesis.”

While social media has become a prevalent way to access information, spread ideas, and influence opinions, concern had been raised that news is being shared within communities of like-minded people (for example, conservative or liberal viewpoints). People may have adopted this behavior as a coping mechanism for “information overload” and may not be aware they are filtering their access to information by using social media platforms, such as Facebook, where the majority of news stories originate from friends’ postings, said lead author Dimitar Nikolov, a doctoral student in the School of Informatics and Computing at IU Bloomington, in a media release.


4 thoughts on “Com0011, Blog 5 — Getting Your News Through Social Media?

  1. I am also guilty of getting a lot of my news from Social Media, and I have to remind myself that it is tailored to my interests and I am missing out on so much. However, my concern is that the Newspaper doesn’t have everything either and has its own bias. Sometimes you can’t be completely sure of how much you can trust any source.

  2. If you restrict the input to 144 characters then the reality becomes only 144 characters. I hopefully, not in my lifetime and I only have 30 years left, see the end to local news sports and weather on TV. And the airwave it was transmitted on is still free to receive. Once this happens the average IQ will slowly decrease and the corporations and bad politicians will have a better time than they do now. I think we are seeing this happen south of the border now with their elections. When you label and restrict your choices you only get a more restrictive less vibrant society. Something that happened about 80 years ago in Europe. I could never get my news from twitter or only Face Book knowing how biased any news media is today. The source for so much news is so manipulated today that I wonder about most of the accuracy when I see a news story on the TV or read it on a social media site as well as the news sites. Knowing who owns the media outlet and how they are being downsized and compartmentalized I know my NEWS is not news it’s now a STORY for all to follow. Carefully crafted to make you think and feel one way or the other and most of the time not telling the full reality of the situation. A reality one could find only on ….The Twilight Zone….I have become a real skeptic about what I read until I can verify it with credible sources. One of the reasons I like crime and technical books not much is left to imagination and definitely more than 144 characters.

  3. If this is becomes more prevalent those relying on this fomr of current event will need to be careful in deciphering what is true and what is opinion. It is important to be able to access news in a varity of methods but let’s face it, Tweets and facebook post are not always valid sources.

  4. Personally, I believe people do themselves a disservice if they get all of their news from one source. Some media outlets have more of a bias than others (Fox News is notoriously bias). Few seem to strive for old-school journalistic integrity providing opposing views in an impartial manner. However, the media market today has big corporations swallowing up little ones or sharing newsrooms with media that used to be competitors, so you still may not be getting multiple sources. The Ottawa Citizen and Sun is one example; CFRA and CTV is another.

    I think it is also important to note that radio did not kill newspapers; television did not kill newspapers or radio; and neither the internet nor social media will kill newspapers, radio, or television. They will adapt.

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