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Dunking on political foes boosts social media engagement

A brand new examine has additional uncovered the impact of polarizing content material on social media engagement.

Researchers from the colleges of Cambridge and New York discovered that tweets and Facebook posts about opposing political events are way more prone to be shared than content material containing emotional language.

Up entrance: Social media platforms have lengthy been accused of algorithmically selling divisive content material, as a result of it’s extra prone to go viral and thereby entice advert income.

The researchers sought to quantify how dunking on one’s enemies can maximize this engagement.

The crew analyzed round 2.7 million posts from information media account and US congressional members.

They discovered that posts about political opponents have been shared roughly twice as usually as these about one’s personal get together. In addition, every additional phrase about an adversary — resembling “Democrat” or “Leftist” in a put up by a Republican — elevated the chances of a share by 67%.

Notably, emotional language was far much less prone to increase engagement.

Per the examine paper:

Each particular person time period referring to the political out-group elevated the chances of a social media put up being shared by 67%. Out-group language persistently emerged because the strongest predictor of shares and retweets: the typical impact dimension of out-group language was about 4.8 occasions as sturdy as that of detrimental have an effect on language and about 6.7 occasions as sturdy as that of moral-emotional language

The researchers warn that amplifying this rhetoric can incite real-world violence, such because the storming of the US Capitol in January.

Quick take: It’s not shocking that dunking on opponents is a powerful driver of virality. Social media platforms are acutely conscious of the impact.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Facebook researchers had warned the corporate that their “algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.” Company executives allegedly shut the analysis down and declined to implement modifications proposed by the crew.

More intriguingly, the examine discovered that “emotional language was weakly associated with the various Facebook reactions.” This means that out-group id language is a stronger predictor of engagement than emotional phrases alone.

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