Debunking my favorite social media myths


By ADAM EARNHEARDT

acearnheardt@ysu.edu

As myths go, I was obsessed with Bigfoot as a kid.

Maybe it was a 1976 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man when Steve Austin battled Bigfoot that got me started. Maybe it was Harry and Hendersons? Full disclosure, I still get sucked in to Animal Planet episodes of Finding Bigfoot.

Maybe I’m still obsessed. After all, I’ve got a lot in common with the big guy.

Like Bigfoot, I’m tall and hairy (well, except for my bald head). I leave large footprints in the ground, trudging through the woods on weekend afternoons looking for wildlife, berries and mushrooms.

At the risk of angering Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) members, I’m not buying it anymore. Chalk it up to too many hoaxes, but every bit of evidence – from pictures to footprints to “droppings” – has been debunked. Not to mention the fact that after 90 episodes of Finding Bigfoot, they’re really found nothing. Nada.

Just like the seemingly endless fascination with the search for Bigfoot, there are endless myths about social media that are easily debunked with just a few facts. And just like Bigfoot, I have two favorites.

Myth #1: Facebook is dying. Or my favorite, “Face-book is dead.” I realize it’s easy to pile on the beast of social media, and kicking them when they’re down seems to be the topic of many tech columns du jour.

“Around seven-in-ten U.S. adults (69 percent) use Facebook, according to a survey conducted in early 2019,” John Gramlich of the Pew Research Center wrote in May. “That’s unchanged since April 2016, but up from 54 percent of adults in August 2012.”

So if that many people are still using Facebook in light of all their many scandals, how is Facebook dead and dying?

They’re not. If those facts aren’t enough to make you a believer, look at the most download applications and you’ll find Facebook and related apps rise to the top in most social media categories.

“With the exception of YouTube... no other major social media platform comes close to Facebook in terms of usage,” Gramlich added.

Myth #2: Twitter is fake news. If this were true, it would stand to reason that fewer Twitter users would report using the microblogging platform to get news.

But as other platforms struggle to offer credible news (e.g., Facebook), Twitter actually has it figured out. Twitter has been proactive in banning and blocking known fake news offenders.

Tom Rosenstiel and his team of researchers at the American Press Institute found that “Three quarters of Twitter news users follow individual journalists, writers and commentators (73 percent) and nearly two thirds follow institutional accounts (62 percent).”

They also found that Twitter users discovered new journalists and writers and followed their work.

Just like Bigfoot, there will always be true believers in social media myths. Now we have some evidence to debunk those myths.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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