SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 13 ― On social media, everything is often ― if not all the time ― a question of appearance, and users don't hesitate to show a different side online to make themselves look “better” or smarter. Now, research suggests that sharing news articles can improve a user's self-confidence ― even if they haven't read a single line of the story.

You've probably already encountered them in Instagram Stories, or posted on Twitter and Facebook, since many users share news articles via their social media accounts. But what are their reasons for posting these stories? According to a study carried out by the Customer Insight Group for the New York Times, sharing information online allows users to feel more involved in the world and to give off a better image of themselves. Out of 2,500 people surveyed, 68 per cent even said that doing so allowed them to give people a better idea of who they are and what interests them.

“Our research shows that this new information-sharing environment may also be transforming the way we understand ourselves. When we share information on social media, we aren’t just sharing news ― we are also sharing an image of who we are and what we know. Our research shows that the signals our behavior sends to others can influence the way we see ourselves; we begin to see ourselves as we believe we are seen by others,” Dr. Adrian Ward told Medical News Today.

So could sharing news stories improve people's own self-perception? So suggests a study published in July 2022 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. The simple fact of sharing information apparently makes people feel more confident and, above all, more knowledgeable about the information shared, even if they have only read the headline of the article. Only 28 per cent of those surveyed described reading an entire article before sharing it on social networks, while 25 per cent admitted to reading just a few lines.

According to a separate study conducted by the same researchers, people who had shared an article, even if they had not read it, had a better perception of their knowledge of a subject, and thus considered themselves more informed in that area. This flawed self-perception can lead people to believe that they are more legitimate in sharing information and giving advice, sometimes leading to the spread of false information. “Given that news sharers gain subjective ― not necessarily objective ― knowledge, and these people are likely to further share news, it is possible that they contribute to the spread of false or misleading information,” Dr. Kim, assistant professor of communication at the University of Arizona, told Medical News Today.

“Feeling more knowledgeable than we really are may have harmful consequences not just for people’s personal behaviour, but also for the ability to communicate with others and function as a society,” Dr. Adrian Ward, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas, told Medical News Today. ― ETX Studio