Gotcha! Hardly anyone reads the articles they share

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We live in a time when viral content on the internet often decides news. A new study by computer scientists at Columbia University finds that internet trends may have shifted from ‘clickbaiting’ to ‘sharebaiting’, where users are more interested in sharing content than actually reading it.

On 4 June, a satirical news site Science Post published an astonishing headline – Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting. More than 40,000 people shared that post, according to The Washington Post.

Ironically, inside the post one would find a large block of “lorem ipsum” text, which is just filler text used to demonstrate graphic elements without being distracted by the content.

According to the study, 59 percent of the links shared on social media have never actually been clicked. These shares and retweets actually end up shaping news, and our “shared political and cultural agendas”.

The research reveals that most people click on news stories not when they are actually shared by agencies, but by regular Twitter users, perhaps like celebrities.

News and current affairs are largely consumed on the internet. But the results of this research reflect that most people are mindlessly sharing news, summarising, making assumptions and then further sharing those assumptions.

Unless we’re happy living with vague assumptions about current affairs, this nugget of internet wisdom should definitely serve to demoralise.

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