A study by Pew Research Center found that over 6-in-10 U.S. adults now get their news from social media.

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Almost half of Americans (44 percent) said they got their news concerning the 2016 presidential election from social media as well, a second study by Pew reported.

Throughout this semester, I conducted interviews in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and found a similar trend.

Of interviews with 25 people, ages 17 to 83 and including students to retirees, I found that 8 of them cited social media as one of their top news sources.

Political interactions were popular this elections season, but many Americans are annoyed and upset with the climate of political posts.

Two weeks before the election, almost 40 percent of U.S. adults said they were “worn out” by all of the political content in their newsfeeds, a recent study by Pew reported.

The study also found that over half of Americans (59 percent) felt stressed and frustrated after interacting with those on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

Dr. Scott Lasley, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University, said that he has seen a larger volume of political interactions on his social media outlets this election season, and he attributes that growth to more developed social media platforms and users having a better working knowledge of each site’s features.

“One of the things that I believe there was more of this cycle, and is a continuation of previous cycles, is that folks are following and retweeting from sites or sources with more narrow perspectives and agendas,” Lasley said. “In my opinion, there was more talking to those who agree with them and more talking past those who disagree.”  

According to the Pew study, a rough majority felt that the political climate on social media is angrier, less respectful and less civil than interactions in other areas of life – 49 percent, 53 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

 

So, did this influx of social media posts during the campaign actually influence the vote?

While Americans aren’t pleased with the climate of the social media scene when it comes to elections, they do feel that these platforms aid political engagement.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-01-01-pmThe majority of U.S. adults feel that these platforms help users get involved with valued issues, encourage political discussion that wouldn’t otherwise happen and help voters learn about candidates either very or somewhat well, according to a study from Pew conducted in the last few months of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Pew found that adults have actually changed their minds about political issues due to social media interactions.

One-in-five social media users (20 percent) say that social media has led to a change in their views on a political or social issue, according to Pew.

The study also reported that 17 percent of U.S. adults have experienced a view change about particular candidates.

Lasley said he experienced this in his personal social media newsfeeds during the presidential campaign.

“There have been some examples on Facebook, particularly from the candidate’s personal page, where a post does impact how I view or evaluate a candidate or officeholder,” Lasley said. “Cumulatively, there are probably more negative than positive impacts.”

Lasley isn’t the only one who was impacted by social media in a more negative direction.

“Respondents who indicated they had changed their minds about Clinton were more than three times as likely to say that their opinion changed in a negative direction rather than a positive one (24 percent vs. 7 percent), and respondents who mentioned Trump were nearly five times as likely to say that their opinion became more negative as opposed to more positive (19 percent vs. 4 percent),” the Pew Research Center found, as a result of a study conducted from July-August 2016.

Should you rely on social media as a news source?

A study conducted in April 2016 by the Media Initiative Project found that news consumers should, and most often do, look at the original news organization that produced the content.

Almost 7-in-10 Americans (66 percent) who consume news from Facebook cited the news producer as a critical factor in their verdict about the content, according to the study, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press.  

Twitter followed Facebook, where a little more than 6-in-10 news consumers (62 percent) said it was critical.

Tyler McMillian, a middle school English teacher from Monroe County, experienced the social media downfall during the 2016 presidential campaign when several of his Facebook friends were posting fake news articles and interpreting the content as truth.

“Social media has its perks and, when used correctly, can be beneficial to a campaign,” McMillian said. “I feel like social media has been detrimental to our ability as a society to distinguish satire and tabloids from credible news sources.”

–Allison G. Thompson