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Overwhelmed and Underinformed? How Americans Keep Up with Current Events in the Age of Social Media (WP-11-02)

Eszter Hargittai, W. Russell Neuman, and Olivia Curry

This working paper reports on a study of new media adopters’ perceptions of—and reactions to—the shift from push broadcasting and headlines to the pull dynamics of online search. From a series of focus groups with adults from around the United States, the researchers document three dominant themes: First, most feel empowered and enthusiastic, not overloaded. Second, evolving forms of social networking represent a new manifestation of the two-step flow of communication. Third, although critical of partisan “yellers” in the media, individuals do not report cocooning with the like-minded—nor avoiding the voices of those with whom they disagree. The three co-authors also find that skills in using digital media do matter when it comes to people’s attitudes and uses of the new opportunities afforded by them.

Eszter Hargittai, Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Associate, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

W. Russell Neuman, John Derby Evans Professor of Media Technology, Communication Studies, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

Olivia Curry, Student, Northwestern University

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