It’s breaking news that’s both shocking and astounding, as well as entertaining to the rest of the globe. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with alien stoners fusing with Earth’s vegetation. But, given you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly concerned about a study that looked at the clicking and sharing actions of social media users who read (or didn’t read) articles and then shared it on social media.

I have noticed long ago that several of our followers will happily like, share and offer an opinion on an article – all without ever reading it. We’re not the only ones to notice this. Last April, NPR shared an article on their Facebook page which asked “Why doesn’t America read anymore?” The joke, of course, is that there was no article. They waited to see if their followers would weigh in with an opinion without clicking the link, and they weren’t disappointed.We’ve been hoping for a chance to try it ourselves, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Yackler had some fun with the same article and managed to fool a bunch of people.A group of computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute looked into a dataset of over 2.8 million online news articles that were shared via Twitter.

According to the survey, up to 59 percent of links published on Twitter are never opened by the person’s followers, implying that social media users are more interested in sharing content than actually reading it.

“People are more willing to share an article than read it,” the study’s co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement, Washington Post reports. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”

This research investigates the psychology of why people want to share content. The New York Times Customer Insight Group performed research into what inspires people to share knowledge. Just under half of the people asked in the survey said they share information on social media to inform people and to “enrich” those around them.

 

Conversely, they found 68 percent share to reinforce and project a certain image of themselves – in a sense, to “define” themselves.In the words of one participant from the study: “I try to share only information that will reinforce the image I’d like to present: thoughtful, reasoned, kind, interested and passionate about certain things.”

It also raises the question of whether online media is essentially a big “echo chamber,” where we all prefer pages and opinions that confirm our own beliefs and aren’t interested in information for information’s sake. Individuals or pages that you tend to click on, like, or share – which are most commonly items or perspectives that you agree with – will appear more frequently in your News Feed, according to the algorithms of social networking sites.

You’re undoubtedly well aware of this as a user of internet media. Examine any social media comment, including, of course, those on the IFLScience Facebook page. It’s especially obvious on more “emotive” and contentious topics, such as climate change, GMOs, vaccinations, aliens, and many of our marijuana articles, where the top comments frequently repeat or challenge something that is quite explicitly stated in the story but not in the headline.

Few months ago, IFLScience’s article about capuchins monkeys entering the stone age was met with many of the top comments on the Facebook post pointing out they’ve done this for hundreds of years, despite that being the first thing the article said if you read it. Although from our analytics it’s impossible to see which users did not click through to the article yet shared it, there is fairly often a slightly fine discrepancy between shares and page views which doesn’t quite add up, especially on those buzz subjects.

 

Many of the top comments on IFLScience’s Facebook post on capuchin monkeys entering the stone age pointed out that they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years, despite the fact that that was the first thing the story said if you read it. Although it’s impossible to tell which visitors didn’t read the post but shared it based on our data, there’s typically a little disparity between shares and page views that doesn’t add up, especially when it comes to hot topics.

So, if you are one of the lucky few who managed to click and read this article, we congratulate you! Although we do apologize for the misleading headline. In the meanwhile, have fun sharing the article and seeing who manages to chair a discussion on marijuana genetics, without ever reading it.