How do people choose what news to share – and with whom? Debbie Goh, Richard Ling, Liuyu Huang and Doris Liew, all of Nanyang Technological University, investigated the question by focus group interviews with over 60 Singaporeans of various ages and backgrounds.
There are two main types of news-sharing behaviour, the authors found. First, the respondents share “actionable news” in order to help out their friends and family. For example, a taxi driver might receive and relay information about dangerous areas in the city. The second form of sharing is “phatic” – meant to maintain social ties rather than convey meaningful information. Phatic sharing might, for example, provide news that serve as conversation starters.
In either case the sharing is reciprocal – people will eventually stop sharing news with those that do not return to courtesy. To maintain a reciprocal relationship, the respondents told of carefully selecting the news to share according to the recipient’s interests. For example, controversial political topics are often avoided. Similarly, the frequency of sharing is moderated: “spamming” others with links is considered inconsiderate.
In general, the respondents restrict their news sharing to relatively close and like-minded people. Their preferred platform appears to be the mobile application WhatsApp, through which they can quickly reach a single person or a closed group of friends. Compared to Facebook, the respondents elaborated, WhatsApp guarantees a more timely reaction from the recipient.
The article “News sharing as reciprocal exchanges in social cohesion maintenance” was published by the journal Information, Communication & Society. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
Picture: Untitled by Dean Moriarty, licence CC0 1.0.