As known from many studies on the issue, algorithms in social media shape what kind of news are users exposed to. The new study “Taming the News Feed on Facebook: Understanding Consumptive News Feed Curation through a Social Cognitive Perspective” by Shuning Lu of North Dakota State University is on how users respond to these algorithm-selected news.
The study studied a sample of 3413 U.S. adults 18 years or older that were drawn from a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2018 that had 4594 participants. There were three survey questions on Facebook use, perceived knowledge, and perceived user controllability. A set of social demographic variable were included.
Need to curate associated with knowledge on how Facebook functions
The proportion of users who proactively curate their news feed remains low, a finding in accordance with previous research. Users are more likely to take backstage actions, like following and unfollowing rather than frontstage actions like liking, sharing, and commenting preferred content.
This suggests that users have a need to lower the publicness of news curation practices. The extent to which people curate their news feeds depends on socioeconomic factors except for income.
Younger and better educated users use features of Facebook to curate their news feed more. Females also did more consumptive curating, and opted for less visible, backstage strategies rather than posting original content.
In accordance to social cognitive theory (SCT), users developed skillful curating actions through perceived knowledge that helped them have the necessary subskills to enact such behaviors.
Knowing about algorithms and living with it
User controllability was an unimportant feature and was not positively associated with consumptive news feed curation. This positive correlation existed only through perceived knowledge.
This suggests that people who are aware of algorithmic manipulation still choose to live with it – taking actions only when they perceive themselves as being in control.
The study “Taming the News Feed on Facebook: Understanding Consumptive News Feed Curation through a Social Cognitive Perspective” is in Digital Journalism (limited access).
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