Social Media Users Worn Out, Stressed Out by Political Content (Report)

It may be a good thing that Election Day is just two weeks away, as a new study discovered just how fed up social media users are with political content.

It may be a good thing that Election Day is just two weeks away, as a new study discovered just how fed up social media users are with political content.

Pew Research Center Tuesday released its newest report, The Political Environment on Social Media, and its findings included:

  • 37 percent of the more than 4,500 U.S. adults surveyed by Pew said they were worn out by the amount of political content they have encountered on social media, while just 20 percent enjoy seeing political content on social networks, and 41 percent did not feel strongly one way or the other.
  • 59 percent of respondents described their online interactions with people they disagree with politically as stressful and frustrating, while just 35 percent find them interesting and informative.
  • 64 percent said such encounters leave them wondering if they have even less in common with those people than they originally thought, while 29 percent believed the opposite.
  • 40 percent of respondents believe people discussing politics on social media platforms say things they would never say in-person, while 49 percent believe political conversations on social media are angrier, 53 percent feel that they are less respectful and 49 percent believe they are less civil.
  • 83 percent try to ignore political posts from friends that they disagree with, while 15 percent said they respond with comments of their own.
  • 39 percent of respondents have blocked or unfriended other social media users or changed settings in order to see fewer posts from them over politics—31 percent changed settings and 27 percent blocked or unfriended other users. 60 percent of those who resorted to those steps said it was due to political content that they found offensive.
  • 19 percent of highly engaged users said they often comment, discuss or post about political issues on social media, compared with just 6 percent of less politically engaged users.
  • 31 percent of politically engaged users feel that social media helps bring new voices into the discussion, while 30 percent feel that it helps people get involved with issues that matter to them.

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Pew also offered the following comparison of Facebook and Twitter when it comes to political posts:

Two of the more common social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, are illustrative in this regard. Facebook users tend to be friends primarily with people they know personally (66 percent of Facebook users say they mostly follow people they already know), while Twitter users are much more likely to follow people they do not know personally (48 percent of Twitter users indicate that most of the people they follow are in this category). And a large share of Facebook and Twitter users report that they follow a relatively broad mix of people with differing political views and opinions (indeed, just 23 percent of Facebook users and 17% of Twitter users say that they mostly follow people with political views that are similar to theirs). But despite these differences in the social and political composition of their networks, an identical share of Facebook users and Twitter users report that they frequently encounter political posts and engage in political discussions among the people in their networks.

Readers: What are your thoughts on the findings by Pew Research Center?

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