The usage of Facebook to consume news has gone down significantly in the United States. People are now turning to messaging apps like WhatsApp to comment, share news or discuss events. Reuters Institute conducted a survey of 74,000 people in 37 markets and has found the world's largest social network Facebook usage drop down 9 percentage points from 2017 in the United States and down 20 points for young users.
Research associate at the Retuers Institute for the study of Journalism said in the Digital News Report that the use of social media has declined in a number of key markets after years of continuous growth. He also said that a continuous rise has been seen in the messaging apps usage as more and more people look for more private spaces to communicate.
One of the reasons for the apparent decline in Facebook usage is privacy concerns and the nature of debates and arguments that happen on the social networking platform. Abuses, vilifications and offensive language and harsh comments all add to people's declining interest in Facebook.
The study found the average usage of WhatsApp double in four years. It has gone up to 16 percent as more discussions take place on WhatsApp. WhatsApp discussions are more likely to get about 24 per cent of respondents take part in a private discussion about news. Also 16 percent are likely to take part in a group created specifically to discuss a news topic.
Many people have cited that they feel comfortable talking on WhatsApp about any news topic as it is more private and allows them to be themselves. However, on Facebook, which is a public platform, people feel apprehensive to indulge in discussions.
Moreover, WhatsApp has a significant advantage over Facebook when it comes to conversation. WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption and does not show user ads. It keeps conversations private and safe. Antonis Kalogeropoulos, Research Fellow, Reuters Institute wrote, "Privacy is an important issue for users, and this partly explains the growth in use of messaging apps, as opposed to more open social networks."
The concern over fake news also adds to Facebook's woes. The research found 54 percent of the people who polled say they were worried about fake news in countries like US, Brazil and Spain. Out of the people who were surveyed, only 23 per cent trusted news that they found on social media such as Facebook while 34 per cent said they rather looked at news through search.
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is a research centre at the University of Oxford. The institute tracks media trends and is funded by the Thomas Reuters Foundation.
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