Forget the birthday posts, photos and poke wars — Facebook is becoming a place where young people get news, whether they mean to or not.
On Thursday, Pew Research Journalism Project published an analysis report on the role of news on Facebook, the largest social network. According to the study, about half of adult Facebook users — roughly a third of the country’s population — receive their news through Facebook.
Young adults account for a large chunk of these – 34% of Facebook news consumers are between the ages of 18 and 29, which is a larger proportion compared to young adults’ news consumption on other news platforms, says Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at the Pew Research Center.
“[Young people] are more likely, proportionately, to be in that news consumer group,” she says. “Which is something you don’t see when you look at news consumption on a lot of other platforms.”
Adults in the 18-to 29-year-old age group are also just as engaged as older adults in news on Facebook, unlike other news platforms where they are typically less engaged, according to the study.
“We do see [young people] engaged as much, and in some cases greater levels than older populations on Facebook,” she says. “Facebook may be an opportunity to expose this younger population to more news.”
Miami University Senior Brett Milam says social media have increased young adults’ awareness of news and current events.
“Social media (are) helping…big time, because it is such an easy way to share information,” Milam says.
Christian Jaekle, a Miami University junior, says Facebook is the only place he gets news. Most recently, he was kept up to date on the government shutdown simply by scrolling through his news feed, he says.
“I never go to any news sites usually for my news,” Jaekle says. “I get most of my news from Facebook.”
However, most Facebook news consumers don’t actively seek news on the social network website. Of Facebook news consumers, 78% get news when on Facebook for other reasons, according to the report.
Stumbling upon news on Facebook speaks to today’s serendipitous nature of news, Mitchell says.
“News is around us and comes at us,” she says. “Facebook certainly speaks to that.”
Social media have become part of the “news diet” of many individuals, Mitchell says, and there could be the potential for more news to be sprinkled on social media sites over time.
“That interweaving of news in with other activities may grow, along with the growth in usage of these sites overall,” she says.
Milam says he does actively seek out news on Facebook, following and “liking” various news pages and organizations on the site.
For Jaekle, when his Facebook friends post news, he benefits from it without taking time to seek it out himself.
“We can enjoy the fruits of the labor of other people who go to these [news] sites, because they are very vocal and they post on Facebook about it,” he says. “We can just kind of absorb it there.”
Of all Facebook news consumers, 4 in 10 will post or share news links themselves, Mitchell says.
Milam says he’s part of that 40%, and often posts about news.
“I mostly share stories about things I’m more passionate about,” he says. “If I see something that’s interesting I’ll share it or like it or comment.”
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