Why do a lot of people fall into the trap of fake news on social media?

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Since the rise of social media, the use of false information has largely developed to be used as a weapon shaking the balance and cohesion of a society to achieve different political or personal goals. When looking at many of the so-called “fake news” on social media, it’s fair to say that a lot of people would easily believe it and that, in my opinion, is due to two important factors.

The first one is that “fake news” is not, as a lot of people might think, simple and naive lies produced by people who don’t know what they are doing. It’s the opposite! In most cases, especially when it comes to elections and politics, hackers and campaign organizers would craft the news they want to spread very carefully, based on data analysis and collected information before using the social media platforms to reach their target audience (The Wharton School). The message itself would also be well processed and organized to look like real and credible news, so the reader will need a lot of attention and deep emotional thinking to understand what’s happening behind the scene. Simply, “fake news” is a well-designed piece of content targeting a specific audience and not everyone!

The human brain's cognitive biases make our daily lives easier and save energy to be used for harder tasks and challenges. Image credit: revenue-hub.com

Another deeper factor responsible for the spread of “fake news” is related to the way our brains work. I’ve always wondered why people believe many rumors and false information, although facts are available for everyone via different sources. The answer is that people tend to believe what they like! A few years earlier, I came to know about “cognitive biases”, a term used to describe how the human brain creates biased ideas and uses them as shortcuts, and follow them without thinking deeply (Barbara). This human feature saves the brain a lot of energy but at the same time, it leaves many gaps and creates many problems, by accepting information that might look very obvious! More importantly, although the average time a person spends on social media platforms is more than 2 hours daily, the average time people usually spend reading news is around 15 seconds! (Martin)

This explains how easy it is to fall into the trap of false and fake stories. It’s defiantly more complicated than many people would expect!

References

Barbara, University of California Santa. “Why We Fall for Fake News.” research. n.d. Webpage.

Martin, Nicole. How Social Media Has Changed How We Consume News. 13 November 2018. Article .

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Why Fake News Campaigns Are So Effective. research. Pennsylvania: The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania., 2018.