Cynical Social Media Voices Can Erode Trust in News Media

With face-to-face interactions, we can choose our conversation partners, but we receive their views without artificial filters and might be swayed by either positive or negative views. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Amid rising concerns about low public trust in mainstream news media institutions, a Rutgers study found that real-life and online social media interactions can strongly influence a person’s trust in newspapers, TV, and online journalism — but when it comes to online social media interactions, cynical views are the most influential.

The study, published in the Journal of Communication, surveyed 350 students at a group of residential living-learning centers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, in which students with similar academic disciplines live in the same dorms and take classes together, thus forming strong social connections.

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Over the course of a semester, the Rutgers researchers found that the strongest social influences on a student’s trust in news media come from face-to-face interactions with politically like-minded people. But social media interactions with online contacts were different. Students’ views were strongly influenced by online contacts who distrusted the news media, and not by those who had high levels of trust in traditional news media.

The study’s author, Katherine Ognyanova, an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s School of Communication and Information,  said:

The students answered surveys about their online and offline social networks, and their levels of trust in news media, before the school year began, and again after one semester. Their scores on media trust changed considerably between the first and second surveys. Ognyanova added:

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