SDSU researchers analyze how college students use social media during breaking news events

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BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — On January 6, during the events at the nation’s capital, two SDSU researchers decided they wanted to learn more about how college students were getting information about the breaking news over social media.

As the events at the nation’s capitol were happening, they created surveys which were sent out to participants within 48 hours of the event.

Whether it’s your smart phone, computer, or another device, it’s hard for most people to get away from social media, especially when there’s a big breaking news story.

“What we found on the January 6th event is that, not only were people using social media a lot, they were using all kinds of platforms. They were getting on social media even more than they usually do to try to make sense of what was happening,” said Jenn Anderson, Associate Professor.

The study found that people who used more social media platforms on that day were more likely to experience cognitive preoccupation with breaking news, which lead to more compulsive social media use. Those complusive users were more likely to share and interact with posts.

“So I think you know, anyone that uses social media can have an important take away with that, you know, not everyone is posting all the time, its really this kind of smaller group of people who are driving a lot of the conversation and content,” said Katy Coduto, Assistant Professor.

The most popular sites they found participants using were Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“I think that’s a combination of both people who were socializing and then also staying on those platforms to information seek and information share, said Coduto.

They are hoping this study helps others understand more about their social media use and where that content is coming from.

“So for me being able to share these results and say hey, you know again only a handful of people are the ones really generating the content so when you’re engaging with a piece of content my goal is for you to have some healthy skepticism about what is in it and where it’s coming from and why it was posted,” said Coduto.

“Before you hit share, think about what that information is, it could be useful for you, but think about whether the information that you’re sharing is accurate,” said Anderson.

They conducted a follow-up study in the same format around July 4th and they haven’t had time to explore that information. They may do more studies like this in the future to compare the data.

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