An Informed Public? News Consumption on Social Media

Photo by  Serge Melki  /  CC

Photo by Serge Melki / CC

 

Accounts of slacktivism highlight how digital participation is often based on emotive misinformation. In doing so, the slacktivist critique taps into similar debates over the influence of selective exposure and algorithmic personalisation on political behaviour. In the light of these concerns, this chapter examines the conditions of everyday news consumption on Facebook and Twitter. Dennis argues that media habits are considerably more complex—and potentially less damaging—than these critiques assume. By comparing the content of media diaries with the lead stories of four British newspapers, this chapter illustrates how personal identity increasingly drives more individualised forms of news consumption. Both Twitter and Facebook are used to tailor updates around a user’s own interests. However, the implications of this personalisation for democratic engagement do not reflect the ominous forecasts of the slacktivist critique. There is no evidence of selective exposure leading to harmful audience fragmentation, as moments of collective exposure to public issues still occur.

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