Newswise – The January 6 uprising on the United States Capitol gave two faculty members at South Dakota State University School of Communication and Journalism the opportunity to examine what drives compulsive use of social media during of a current event. However, they had to go fast.
“As I watched the live coverage (at home) it was so devastating and emotionally raw,” Associate Professor Jenn Anderson said. Assistant Professor Kathryn Coduto said: “I was in my apartment seeing tweets about something going on on Capitol Hill, turned on the news and then texted Jenn.”
Anderson continued, “We decided in three texts what we should do.” Coduto, who had done other compulsive media use studies, said, “I had all these metrics that I could adapt and always wanted to test this with the latest news. “
The researchers had prepared the survey for Dianne Nagy, SDSU’s research integrity and compliance manager, to review based on the Institutional Review Board’s standards for human subjects on January 8. The survey received IRB approval later that day, and researchers began recruiting respondents through the School of Communication and Journalism’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and sending emails directly to potential respondents. The researchers also recruited from their own personal networks.
“We notified Dianne on Jan. 6 that this was urgent and we are grateful for the speed of execution,” Anderson said, noting that the IRB exam typically takes a few weeks at most universities. Researchers collected survey responses from 380 Midwestern college students within 48 hours.
“People wanted to share their experiences. They have been extremely honest with us, ”said Anderson. “We captured people’s immediate and genuine responses to the event as well as specific self-reflections on behaviors, such as why they connected, what their motivations were.”
An analysis of the survey is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, a quarterly publication of the Broadcast Education Association. The research was funded by the School of Communication and Journalism.
The survey showed that 66.1% of those surveyed used social media to pass time, 63.2% for social interaction, 53.9% as a source of information, 26.1% for its usefulness as communication tool, 21.3% to share information and 16.8% to express opinions. Respondents were able to identify several reasons for using social media.
In particular, the researchers looked at the motivation of those classified as “having a cognitive concern with social media.” They think about social media when they’re not there, ”Coduto said. One question on which of the 10 sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Weibo) regularly used respondents allowed researchers to identify this subset of respondents.
The survey showed that those who were already concerned about social media were increasing their use of social media, accessing more social media channels, and being more actively engaged on these platforms during the last-minute event.
“One of the most interesting lessons was that the more compulsive they were in using social media, the more they posted, commented and engaged. Translating that into behavior is a hard-hitting thing, ”said Coduto. Additionally, responses showed that those who use social media as a convenient way to find and share information and express their opinions are more likely to be concerned about the internet during a news event.
“The breaking news creates a lot of uncertainty, so when technology is part of your daily life, the more channels you already think of, the more likely you are to connect and keep scrolling,” Coduto said. While the first tweets or posts on Facebook are unlikely to be the most accurate, people would rather have incorrect information or wrong information than no information at all.
Although reporters were already on the scene to cover the certification of the election, Anderson said, “People wanted to see the feeds of those in and around the Capitol who were live streaming, tweeting and sharing. It makes them feel like they’re inside the story.
Coduto continued, “A lot of people don’t trust any media. Because these feeds are not filtered, they (social media users) feel better informed and able to decide for themselves. She recommends “balancing impatience and the need to know with the expectation of letting the facts emerge” and using fact-checking tools, such as the Poynter Institute’s international fact-checking network and PolitiFact.
Impact on future research
In future studies, researchers hope to be able to examine what social media users post and share. “Are they generating original content or sharing? Anderson said. Coduto added, “Are they sharing without reading? Is the information correct or is it incorrect information? “
From a research standpoint, Anderson said, “What we’ve done is a plan on how to put something up for breaking news. The survey can also be adapted to other current events, but she cautioned, “You have to know the metrics and what you want to do. “
In addition, she recommended informing IRB officials in advance. “If you can pre-approve at least some of the metrics and hardware, it will be more like an update (an existing research protocol rather than a whole new one, when the event occurs).”