Are you tired of social networks? You may be at higher risk of believing and sharing false reports

The fatigue caused by information overload on social networks is linked to believing and sharing misinformation, which is more common among narcissistic people

A study conducted in eight countries by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore found that those who say they are tired or overwhelmed by social media are more likely to believe misinformation and share it online. Using COVID-19 misinformation as an example of misinformation, the study also found that narcissistic people are even more likely to share misinformation.

The study is based on more than 8,000 responses from participants in Singapore, the United States, Malaysia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Researchers say that with millions of users relying on social media as a source of news and entertainment, as well as a means of communication, there is an urgent need to address social media fatigue and its consequences.

According to the authors, social media fatigue arises from an excess of information that impairs social media users’ cognitive judgment. In such circumstances, individuals feel overwhelmed and struggle to critically evaluate the misinformation they encounter, whether it relates to COVID-19 or other topics. Another explanation for this social media fatigue effect is the way social media algorithms work, which prioritize controversial, sensational and emotionally charged content. Repeated exposure to this type of content can lead people to perceive it as accurate.

Dark personality traits and social networks

The study first evaluated survey participants’ level of fatigue and assessed their level of agreement with five statements related to social network use, such as whether they feel mentally exhausted or too tired to do other tasks due to social network use.

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Participants were then asked to rate the veracity of a series of false claims about COVID-19 presented in a simulated social media post style and their likelihood of sharing these claims. One such message said: “Coconut is effective in relieving symptoms of COVID-19.” Another said: “COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous and ineffective against Omicron variants.”

Participants’ cognitive abilities were assessed using a vocabulary test to assess intelligence. Traits of narcissism were also measured using a personality inventory test. Narcissism is characterized by an increased desire for attention, admiration, and a sense of uniqueness, which can increase a person’s propensity to spread misinformation.

Researchers found that people with stronger narcissistic tendencies are more likely to perceive misinformation as accurate and share it on social media when tired. According to the researchers, individuals may spread misinformation to attract attention and gain social influence without using critical thinking. This tendency to share misinformation is particularly relevant in the case of misinformation, which is typically characterized by sensational and controversial content that evokes strong emotional reactions from audiences.

Fatigue also affects these people. Narcissists prefer immediate rewards and gratification over delayed gratification. Therefore, when accompanied by fatigue and reduced cognitive abilities, it is likely that they will not make correct judgments about and pass on misinformation due to their impulsive nature.

REFERENCE

Examining the association between social media fatigue, cognitive ability, narcissism, and misinformation sharing: cross-national findings from eight countries

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