Amidst all the hot takes being furiously written by journalists, bloggers, and Facebook friends alike, the influence of social media over the election and the public is taking center stage. We set new records this year: more than 75 million election-related Tweets had been sent by 3 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
Houston, we've got an information problem.
44% percent of American adults get their news through Facebook. Newsfeed and trending topics played an instrumental role in shaping public opinion, but, of course, there’s a lack of quality control and fact checking. As Bobby Goodlatte, a Facebook product designer from 2008 to 2012, noted, “As we’ve learned in this election, bullshit is highly engaging.” The more you slow your scroll to read those crazy headlines or click on the comments, the more of those stories will appear, since Facebook’s algorithm considers that to be positive engagement -- meaning that you want more. And it’s increasingly difficult to tell fake news from real news. (Facebook says it’s working on it.)
A large number of Twitter posts about both candidates came from automated accounts, or bots. We know that people tend to gravitate towards information that confirms their own views, and we know that people prefer to read about scandal over policy.
Another small problem: The majority of people who share a link on a social media site don’t actually open the link. Most people retweet or re-post news without ever bothering to, uh, read it, which doesn’t help us at all.
So what can we do to find real information and not be swept up in the tidal wave of headlines, opinions, and emotions coming our way through these channels?
- Limit your social media check-ins to once or twice a day. Now, this may sound odd coming from us, but it’s all about balance (and productivity). Information overload is real, and it can keep us from making decisions, completing tasks, and grasping information in the long-term.
- Use a tool like feedly or Pocket to save articles and blog posts from credible news sources that you can read during your scheduled check-in times. Be disciplined about this!
- Remember that your activity is public. Last week we talked about professional branding, and it’s still worth remembering since your comments and posts on other profiles will be seen by your followers, too. If you have something to say, write it out and sit on it for a while before you post, so you’re sure it’s really something you’re okay sharing with the world.
Not sure you can limit your social media intake? Now might be the time to check out Snapchat: the company was actually committed to showing a diversity of perspectives through its Live Stories, with a team of journalists curating posts. If you haven’t tried the tool out yet, it might just be time!