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.