FEATURED: Social media is a collective term for websites and applications that focus on communication, community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. People use social media to stay in touch and interact with friends, family and various communities. The largest social media networks include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. Social media typically features user-generated content and personalized profiles.
Photograph Courtesy MCCOMBS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS/UT AUSTIN
Sharing on social media makes people overconfident in their knowledge, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, reports attorney Omar Ochoa
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
According to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, sharing news articles with friends and followers on social media can prompt people to think they know more about the articles’ topics than they actually do, reports attorney Omar Ochoa.
‘Social media sharers believe that they are knowledgeable about the content they share, even if they have not read it or have only glanced at a headline, states the research, titled “I Share, Therefore I Know” by Susan M. Broniarczyk, Professor of Marketing, and Adrian Ward, Assistant Professor of Marketing, at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business.
“In this research, we wanted to look at how sharing information on social media might actually cause people to think they know more about that information than they really do,” said Ward. “The reason this can happen is because on social media, we can share stuff that we don’t really know. We can share articles that we haven’t written or read. But the idea here is when we share information, it makes us look smart to other people. That can actually influence us, and motivate us, to think that we are as smart as we appear.”
Social media is a collective term for websites and applications that focus on communication, community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. People use social media to stay in touch and interact with friends, family and various communities.
The largest social media networks include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. Social media typically features user-generated content and personalized profiles.
“The findings that are put forth by these researchers, ‘are important in a world in which it is simple to share content online without reading it,’” Ochoa said. “For example, recent data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism show only 51 percent of consumers who “read” an online news story actually read the whole article, while 26 percent read part, and 22 percent looked at just the headline or a few lines.”
Online journalism, also known as citizen journalism, is a modern form of reporting where editorial content is distributed via the Internet, as opposed to publishing via print or broadcast.
Citizen journalism involves a person without an affiliation to professional news outlets who gathers information and produces news reports.
Ochoa has experience in journalism print publications.
He was the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Texas Law Review at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, becoming the first Latino to serve in that position.
In the context of law school, a law review is an entirely student-run journal that publishes articles written by law professors, judges, and other legal professionals; many law review journals also publish shorter pieces written by law students called “notes” or comments.
Ochoa, himself a graduate of the University of Texas as well as the UT School of Law, is an advocate for transparency in government, provides regular reports to the public on federal, state, and local laws that impact journalism, communications, freedom of speech issues, and transparency in government.
According to Ballotpedia, which is a nonprofit and nonpartisan online political encyclopedia that covers federal, state, and local politics, elections, and public policy in the United States:
• Openness, accountability, and honesty define government transparency.
• In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.
• Governments exist to serve the people. Information on how officials conduct the public business and spend taxpayers’ money must be readily available and easily understood.
This transparency allows good and just governance. Government transparency is traditionally broken into three different types: proactive disclosure, requesting public records, and campaign finance disclosure.
Other highlights of the news story, written by Jeremy Simon, McCombs School of Business, about “I Share, Therefore I Know”, follow:
Broniarczyk, Ward and Frank Zheng, a McCombs marketing doctoral alum, conducted several studies that support their theory.
In an initial one, the researchers presented 98 undergraduate students with a set of online news articles and told them they were free to read, share, or do both as they saw fit.
Headlines included “Why Does Theatre Popcorn Cost So Much” and “Red Meats Linked to Cancer.”
Next, they measured participants’ subjective and objective knowledge for each article – what the students thought they knew, and what they actually knew.
Reading articles led to increases in both objective and subjective knowledge.
Objective knowledge is that which has been acquired by indirect means primarily observation and analysis when one is not personally involved in the activity being observed.
Subjective knowledge is that which has been acquired by direct experience and interpreted by the experiencer. Subjective knowledge isn’t about objective reality though the two are frequently confused, it is about subjective reality or as some call it, the soul. The two can be very similar if the owner is mature enough to have created an accurate model of the world.
Sharing articles also predicted increases in subjective knowledge – even when students had not read what they chose to share, and thus lacked objective knowledge about the articles’ content.
In a second study, people who shared an article about cancer prevention came to believe they knew more about cancer than those who did not, even if they had not read the article.
Three additional studies found this effect occurs because people internalize their sharing into the self-concept, which leads them to believe they are as knowledgeable as their posts make them appear.
(One’s self-concept is a collection of beliefs about oneself. Generally, self-concept embodies the answer to the question “Who am I?”. Self-concept is distinguishable from self-awareness, which is the extent to which self-knowledge is defined, consistent, and currently applicable to one’s attitudes and dispositions.)
Participants thought they knew more when their sharing publicly committed them to an expert identity: when sharing under their own identity versus an alias, when sharing with friends versus strangers, and when they had free choice in choosing what to share.
In a final study, the researchers asked 300 active Facebook users to read an article on “How to Start Investing: A Guide for Beginners.” Then, they assigned students to a sharing or no sharing group.
All participants were told the content existed on several websites and saw Facebook posts with the sites.
Sharers were asked to look at all posts and choose one to share on their Facebook page.
Next, in a supposedly unrelated task, a robo-advised retirement planning simulation informed participants that allocating more money to stocks is considered “more aggressive” and to bonds “more conservative,” and they received a customized investment recommendation based on their age.
Participants then distributed a hypothetical $10,000 in retirement funds between stocks and bonds:
Sharers took significantly more investment risk. Those who shared articles were twice as likely to take more risk than recommended by the robo-advisor.
“When people feel they’re more knowledgeable, they’re more likely to make riskier decisions,” Ward said.
The research also suggests there’s merit to social media companies that have piloted ways to encourage people to read articles before sharing.
“If people feel more knowledgeable on a topic, they also feel they maybe don’t need to read or learn additional information on that topic,” Broniarczyk said.
“This miscalibrated (wrongly or poorly) sense of knowledge can be hard to correct.”
Funding boosted for Texas Center for Community Journalism at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, which is part of Texas A&M System
The Texas Center for Community Journalism at Tarleton State University recently received a 25 percent increase in annual funding.
Community journalism is locally-oriented, professional news coverage that typically focuses on city neighborhoods, individual suburbs or small towns, rather than metropolitan, state, national or world news.
If it covers wider topics, community journalism concentrates on the effect they have on local readers.
Community newspapers, often but not always publish weekly, and also tend to cover subjects larger news media do not. Some examples of topics are students on the honor roll at the local high school, school sports, crimes such as vandalism, zoning issues and other details of community life.
Financial support for the organization, housed on Tarleton’s Stephenville campus since 2020, comes through the Texas Newspaper Foundation, which has renewed its $20,000 yearly pledge, combined with a new donation of $5,000 from the Texas Press Service.
“The mission of the Texas Center for Community Journalism is more important than ever,” said Austin Lewter, Director, and a Tarleton journalism Instructor. “We are dedicated to training mid-level professional journalists at community newspapers across the state.”
The Texas Center for Community Journalism offers support for almost 400 small-town papers.
Created by Dr. Tommy Thomason at Texas Christian University and funded by the Texas Newspaper Foundation, it offers free training on a variety of topics vital to small newspapers’ survival.
“Newspapers are the bedrock of the community,” Lewter said. “Without them, democracy and diversity are jeopardized. The Texas Newspaper Foundation has been the center’s main benefactor since its inception. We appreciate their support, and communities all across the state of Texas are enriched because of it.”
Over the past year, Lewter and contributors from the center have logged more than 3,800 miles in presenting writing and design workshops at community newspapers statewide as well as hosted in-person workshops in Stephenville and Austin.
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