There’s no denying that 2020 has been a difficult year and, according to Americans surveyed by Pew Research Center recently, social media isn’t helping.
Pew said 64% of respondents believe social media has a mostly negative effect on the way things are currently going in the country, with roughly one-quarter saying those platforms have neither a positive nor a negative effect, and just 10% saying they impact things positively.
Misinformation and hate and harassment were cited most often by those with negative views of social networks, at 28% and 16%, respectively, along with concerns about people believing everything they see or read, or not being sure what to believe, at 11%
Party lines came into play, as 78% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents defined social media’s impact as negative, compared with 53% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners.
While Democrats were fairly consistent across ideologies, conservative Republicans were more likely than moderates to say social media has had a mostly negative effect (83%, compared with 70%), while moderate to liberal Republicans were more likely to say those platforms had a mostly positive effect than their conservative counterparts (21% versus 13%).
Pew wrote, “Those who have a negative view of the impact of social media mention, in particular, misinformation and the hate and harassment they see on social media. They also have concerns about users believing everything they see or read—or not being sure about what to believe. Additionally, they bemoan social media’s role in fomenting partisanship and polarization, the creation of echo chambers and the perception that these platforms oppose President Donald Trump and conservatives.”
Another survey conducted by Pew in July found that 23% of adult social media users in the U.S. have changed their views about a political or social issue due to something they saw on one of those platforms over the past year, down from 15% when the think tank asked the same question in 2018.
The Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality were mentioned most often as topics people changed their mind about, joined by political parties, ideologies and political figures.
Democrats and Democrat-leaners were slightly more likely to say they had changed their views on an issue than Republicans and Republican-leaners, at 25% versus 21%.
Asian Americans were the most likely race to say they changed their views on a topic, at 29%, followed by Blacks (28%), Hispanics (28%) and whites (20%).
By age group, U.S. social media users 18 through 29 topped the list, at 34%, followed by 30 through 49 (23%), 50 through 64 (20%) and 65 and older (13%).
Pew wrote, “Still, a majority of U.S. social media users (76%) say they have not changed their views on a political or social issue because of something they saw on social media in the past year. This is down from 84% in 2018.”