I like the news: Informational uses of social media and processes of attitude formation and expression

Event Date: 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - 12:00pm

Event Location: 

  • SSMS 2135

Stephan Winter

Besides their original role as tools for private communication, social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook are increasingly used as sources of information on political and societal debates: News media organizations and politicians have set up channels within the network, and users frequently discuss current topics with their friends – especially in the younger population, SNS have become one of the major sources of news. The talk will address the question of how the resulting juxtaposition of mass and interpersonal communication is able to change traditional patterns of media effects and leads to new dynamics of public opinion. Specifically, it deals with the range of topics that are covered in SNS channels (in terms of media and audience selectivity), the conditions under which Facebook users engage in political discussions, and the effects of the visible social reactions (e.g., user comments and "likes") on the evaluation of news content. Results suggest that even quality media tend to adapt to the perceived demands of the Facebook audience (with a trend toward tabloidization) and that people who frequently express their views in SNS are strongly motivated by impression management goals. With regard to opinion formation, an online experiment shows that the resulting user-generated statements (Facebook comments) have the potential to reduce the persuasive effects of the original news articles. The presentation will discuss opportunities and risks that are connected to this social form of news consumption as well as theoretical perspectives for the analysis of informational SNS usage.

Stephan Winter (Ph.D., 2012) is a research associate in the department of social psychology - media and communication at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. His work focuses  on credibility and information selection as well as on processes of attitude formation and  expression in new media environments. Furthermore, he is interested in online journalism,  science communication, and online self-presentation.