59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked. Most people retweet news without reading it.
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Facts
According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked.
In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.
Worse, the study finds that these sort of blind peer-to-peer shares are really important in determining what news gets circulated and what just fades off the public radar. So your thoughtless retweets, and those of your friends, are actually shaping our shared political and cultural agendas.
"People are more willing to share an article than read it," study co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement. "This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper."
To verify that depressing piece of conventional internet wisdom, Legout and his co-authors collected two data sets: the first, on all tweets containing Bit.ly-shortened links to five major news sources during a one-month period last summer; the second, on all of the clicks attached to that set of shortened links, as logged by Bit.ly, during the same period. After cleaning and collating that data, the researchers basically found themselves with a map to how news goes viral on Twitter.
And that map showed, pretty clearly, that "viral" news is widely shared — but not necessarily, you know, read. (I'm really only typing this sentence for 4 in 10 people in the audience.)
The researchers made a few other telling observations, as well: Most clicks to news stories, they found, were made on links shared by regular Twitter users, and not the media organization itself. The links that users clicked were much older than we generally assume — some had been published for several days, in fact
But most interesting, for our purposes, is this habit of sharing without clicking — a habit that, when you think about it, explains so much of the oft-demoralizing cesspool that is internet culture. Among the many phenomena we'd tentatively attribute, in large part, to the trend: the rise of sharebait (nee clickbait) and the general BuzzFeedification of traditional media; the internet hoax-industrial complex, which only seems to be growing stronger; and the utter lack of intelligent online discourse around any remotely complicated, controversial topic.