Sharing is caring – or just weird? Some reasons why youngsters are reluctant to share news on social media

Sharing news on social media is clearly impacting how people find news today. But if media companies want to utilize this distribution channel more effectively, they also need to understand why people, and in this case, young people, don’t share news on social media.

Sharing news in social media, and particular Facebook, is becoming more common. According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of Americans get news on social media, primarily Facebook (2014 data). In Norway, 22% of the total population said Facebook was important for news updates, while among those between 15-29 years, 39% said Facebook was important for news, according to Medienorge (page 21, 2013 data). These and similar data (i.e. from Reuters Institute) indicate that social media is already an important source of news.

We also know from research conducted by Arne Krumsvik that news editors consider four key strategies for user involvement through social media: Distribution, Donation, Data, Deliberation (the four Ds) – and distribution has the lowest threshold for participation.When readers/viewers/listeners share content on their social networks, they extend news sites’ reach and distribution to potentially new audiences. Still, as we will see, there is a threshold for sharing news among youngsters.

As Facebook’s Instant Articles are about to be rolled out in more countries, also the Nordic countries, it is important to understand people’s motivation, but also reluctance to news sharing. It is important to understand the thick data, not only the big data regarding social news sharing. Some weeks ago, we started the bachelor course Journalistikk, makt og mediebruk (Journalism, power and media use) at IMK where I teach at the moment. Among many of the things we talked about, social news sharing was one of the topics. A clear majority of the students said that they did not share news stories on social media. Among the main reasons for not sharing news on Facebook, the most important social network for them, were:

  • News sharing on Facebook is weird and awkward.
  • Other friends have already shared the story.
  • It is noisy.
  • Sharing stuff is something parents do.
  • Expectations and insights into what their social network is (not) interested in.
  • Only unique, different stories are shared
  • Rather indirect sharing, tagging one or a few friends in interesting news stories.
  • Facebook is rather used for closed communication in groups, chats and for events.

(NOTE – this is not thorough research, rather some interesting impression from a huge group of bright and critical students in their 20s)

This leaves me with many insights, but I’ll focus on one: The role of opinion leaders. Rune Karlsen has written a very interesting article about opinion leaders in social media, and how people who follow politicians, news and in general have a greater overview than their friends, play important roles as distributors in their social networks. The none-sharing behavior of the 20something students I talked to, indicates that the opinion leaders have important roles to play as distributors of content in social networks, both among their peer, but also for media companies.



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