Social Media and Society:
News and Reality
William H. Dutton @BiiiDutton
Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy
Quello Center, Michigan State University
Presentation for a discussions at University Institute of Lisbon, ISCTE-
IUL, ISCTE-IUL, FCT, and CIES-IUL, Lisbon, Portugal, 9 April 2018.
Social Research Perspectives on
the Panics Over Social Media
• Filter Bubbles
• Echo Chambers
• Fake News
• Cambridge Analytica-Facebook Fiasco
threat to the moral order
Social Relationships: A Threat to the Social Order?
• Isolating Individuals?
• Substituting Virtual for Real Friendship?
• Undermining Social Relationships?
• 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013
• Cross-sectional Surveys versus Panels
• Multi-Stage Probability Sample
• England, Scotland & Wales
• Respondents: 14 years and older
• Face-to-face Interviews, High Response Rates
• Sponsorship from the British Library, Higher
Education Funding Council for England, Ofcom,
• Component of World Internet Project (WIP)
Oxford Internet Surveys
Isolating, Connecting, or Reconfiguring Access
Romantic Views of the Past
Complement v Substitute
• Users Perceive Same or More Connections
• Increased Contact with Family & Friends
• Non-users are Most Isolated
Meet New People Online, Growth Over the Years
• A Few ( 1 or 2) Meet in Person
• More Never Personally Meet
Reinforces and Reconfigures Access: Can Change
• Who You Know
• With Whom You Stay in Touch With
Online Dating: A Threat to the Social Order?
• Dating Through a Screen?
• Undermining Stable
Supported at the OII by eHarmony (2008—2013)
18 Country Online Survey*
Co-habiting couples, 18 and over
Dated, Update Needed
*Hogan, B., Li, N., and Dutton, W. H. (2011), A Global Shift in the Social Relationships of Networked
Individuals: Meeting and Dating Online Comes of Age. (February 14, 2011).
SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1763884 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1763884
Me, My Spouse and the Internet Study
Me, My Spouse and the Internet
Global Shift in Prominence
• Since 1997 with Rise of Social Media
• New and Legitimate Place to Meet
• Based on Experience, not Success
• Know Others Who Have Dated Online
Complement v a Substitute for Offline
Individual and Cross-National Differences
• Older (over 40), Gender, Sexual Orientation
Reconfigures Access, e.g., Age and Educational Differences
(Dis)Information Order: Undermining the Information
• Diminishing the Quality of Information?
• My Daily Me – Filter Bubble?
• Echo Chambers Polarizing Politics?
• Fake News Undermining
The Part Played by Search in Shaping Political Opinion
• Quello Center team in collaboration with the Oxford Internet
Institute (OII), University of Oxford and Department of
Communication, University of Ottawa
• Professor William H. Dutton (Quello)
• Dr. Bianca C. Reisdorf (Quello)
• Dr. Grant Blank (OII)
• Dr. Elizabeth Dubois (Ottawa)
• With the assistance of:
• Craig Robertson (PhD Student, Quello)
• Sabrina Ahmed (BA Student, Ottawa)
• Support from Google, Inc.
Cross-National Comparative Research
A User-Centered Perspective
1. Centrality of
Search for Info
2. Diversity of
3. Check, Confirm,
4. Find Info that is
5. Seldom Block,
• Google Studie
• Erste Resultate
Individual Differences in Search
The Report Plus
Dutton, W.H., Reisdorf, B.C., Dubois, E., and Blank, G. (2017), Search
and Politics: The Uses and Impacts of Search in Britain, France,
Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United States, Quello Center
Working Paper available on SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2960697
Dutton, W.H. (2017), ‘Fake News, Echo Chambers, and Filter
Bubbles: Underresearched and Overhyped’: https://theconversation.com/fake-
Dutton, W. H. (2017), ‘Bubblebusters’, NESTA. http://readie.eu/bubblebusters-
Social Media and Big Data Reshaping Privacy and
‘Privacy is dead, get over it.’ Scott McNealy
• Social Networking Eroding Privacy?
• Cambridge-Analytica Fiasco
Chris Wylie (Whistle Blower)
A Complicated Ethical Breach, Rather than a Security, Data Breach
W. H. Dutton (2018),
data breaches’, The
Deterministic Perspectives – Loss of Control
Tipping Point – Potentially Transformative
Lack of Critical Multidisciplinary Research
Problems are Real, but Exceptions v the Rule
Focus of the Mass Media and News
Social Media Panics in the Press: Why?
News Writing Mantra: Simplify and Exaggerate
• Actual Implications Complex, Conflicting
• Journalists Don't Read Social Science!
Networked (Pack) Journalism
• Dominant Story Lines & Messages in News Outlets
• Reporters networked online (2018) v. The Boys on the Bus (1972)
Deterministic Perspectives Simple & Attracts Readers
• Technology (Company) Bites Humans
• 50th Anniversary of 2001: The Space Odyssey and HAL
What Can Be Done?