Interestingly enough, though perhaps not surprisingly, people on social media share news stories rather than read them. At first glance this seems rather perplexing: after all, why would you tweet or re-tweet or like or share a news item before actually reading and understanding it?
Arnaud Legout co-author of a recent study, out of Columbia University and the French National Institute (Inria), tells us that “People form an opinion based on a summary, or summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.” More confusingly, he adds, “Our results show that sharing content and actually reading it are poorly correlated.”
Please take 8 seconds or more to mull over this last statement again:
Our results show that sharing content and actually reading it are poorly correlated.
Without doubt our new technological platforms and social media have upended traditional journalism. But, in light of this unnerving finding I have to wonder if this means the eventual and complete collapse of deep analytical, investigative journalism and the replacement of thoughtful reflection with “NationalEnquirerThink”.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into the findings, but it does seem that it is more important for social media users to bond with and seek affirmation from their followers than it is to be personally informed.
With average human attention span now down to 8 seconds I think our literary and contemplative future now seems to belong safely in the fins of our cousin, the goldfish (attention span, 9 seconds).
Learn more about Arnaud Legout’s disturbing study here.
Image: Common Goldfish. Courtesy: Wikipedia. Public Domain.