Uploaded by rolltidezhou

Selective exposure Critique

Selective Exposure Critique
In the Messing and Westwood article, Selective Exposure in the Age of Social Media,
they draw connections between social media and how people select political articles. Today,
social media sites use data to aggregate content they believe the user would like. This can vary
based on what form of aggregation the site is using, but usually, content is shown by its
popularity. This helps break down political barriers since sites do not aggregate based on
political content. Users are also shown a snippet of the article before they decide to click on it to
read it fully, so it also helps break down political barriers since, theoretically, users are choosing
stories based on content rather than the source.
The study looked to test four hypotheses that built upon each other. The first hypothesis
being, “Partisan consumers of news content will select content based on anticipated agreement
(as indicated by source cues)” (Messing, 1047) This ties back to the Schrum reading from earlier
in the semester on Media Consumption. Essentially, this hypothesis is stating that people will not
take into account all aspects of news content, but rather will rely on heuristics to make relevant
decisions rather quickly. The idea that people will rely on the source of the news to know if they
will agree with it or not supports Schrum’s theory that people will subconsciously pick the lowhanging fruit in order to make decisions in a timely manner.
The second hypothesis states that “Consumers of news content will use social
endorsements to make content selections.” (Messing, 1048) This hypothesis harkens back to the
idea that mass media is used as a form of social control. In Schattenberg’s idea of social control,
showing the public that crime is punished and good deeds are rewarded is a sort of teaching tool
by tapping into people’s internal need to fit in with their community. This hypothesis combines
Schattenberg’s theory with Levy’s theory of parasocial interaction. Parasocial interaction shows
that the audience feels a personal connection between them and the media that builds trust. By
showing the number of social endorsements on news content, readers will feel compelled to fit
into their community by reading the popular subjects, but they will also feel a level of trust since
a great number of people are referencing the article. An argument could also be made for the
Spiral of Silence theory here since it suggests that articles that do not receive high levels of
endorsement would fall into the spiral and be overrun by the news articles that are more popular
and entertaining.
Hypothesis three and four discuss the ability of one theory to overrun another.
“Hypothesis 3 (H3): News consumers will be more likely to utilize social endorsements than
perceived partisan alignment of a news source (selective exposure). Hypothesis 4 (H4): The
presence of social endorsements will negate the effect of source cues.” (Messing, 1048)
Hypothesis three suggests that Schrum’s Media Consumption Theory will shift to a different
form of heuristic to rely on when deciding news stories from source agreement to social
endorsements. The fourth hypothesis suggests that Social Control Theory will overpower
Schrum’s Media Consumption Theory and that social control itself will serve as the heuristic that
people rely on to make decisions.
In conclusion, we see that readers have a need to fit in socially with their community.
They do this by trusting the news stories that are recommended by a great number of people
regardless of political slant. This is further reinforced by the finding that Republicans are more
likely to respond to social endorsements because other research showed they have a higher level
of conformity. This could decrease our society’s reliance on political affiliation to make
decisions; however, since these news suggestions are aggregated based on what a person’s
“friend” has posted, it is likely that like-minded individuals will run in the same political circle
thus creating a larger echo chamber of confirmation bias.
Messing, S., & Westwood, S. J. (2012). Selective Exposure in the Age of Social Media.
Communication Research, 41(8), 1042–1063. doi: 10.1177/0093650212466406