Nudging on Social Media
More and more people share their lives on social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, you name them. Although platforms like these come with a lot of advantages, it is impossible to not talk about its drawbacks. So, which are they? How can they be minimised? And how can Behavioural Economics contribute to the safe and healthy use of social media?
Advantages All around the world, millions share their contents with followers. We get likes, comments and shares. If we are successful, we build a strong network and connections around us. In addition, it is a way of discovering new topics, interests and motivations. It provides us new inputs and opportunities.
Disadvantages However, not all is fun and games. With the rise of social media several years ago, a few problems came along. Misinformation, addiction, cyberbullying and anxiety are just some of the most important ones. A study conducted in 2019 showed that around 37% of young teens aged between 12 and 17 have suffered cyberbullying and around 30% of them stated that it had happened more than once. Due to this, solutions were needed.
In order to fight those complications, the platforms have been trying to adopt nudging as a way to try to alter user’s behaviour. Below, you will find examples from two different social: Twitter and Instagram.
On Twitter In these last few years, the access to all different types of news has been increasing. There are more sources, more points of view and, consequently, more discussions and debates. With that, however, the “fake news” concept and misinformation escalated quickly. This has been one of Twitter’s main concerns. Considered a platform where people can discuss and share opinions freely, Twitter has been trying to maintain informed and interesting conversations between its users. Due to this, and in order to preserve everyone’s freedom, the social media platform resorted to a nudge. The idea was to advise everyone who was about to retweet an article to actually open and read it before doing so, since its title can be misleading and not enough to form a critical opinion. Although it is still a very recent measure (it was introduced early last year), the company believes it will be efficient, and that it will promote informed discussions. Fake news is not the only issue in the online world. Also, harassment and cyberbullying can ruin lives. In 2012, it was estimated that there were around 15000 bully-related tweets sent every day. Twitter decided to act on it and to give people a second chance before they tweet something they might regret. Although a lot of individuals are harmful on social media just because they feel like it, this nudge can increase their awareness and their perceptions. For those that were just being aggressive in an argument, this new feature can give them time to rethink.
On Instagram Cyberbullying has been one of Instagram’s main concerns too.
When someone posts a photo, it is very likely that some other person will comment on it. However, it can either be a good and fulfilling comment or one that hurts us. Just like Twitter, Instagram implemented the second chance method in order to make people rethink about what they wrote and prevent instinctive messages. In 2018, it was concluded through a survey that almost 59% of teens had experienced some type of cyberbullying on the platform.
In addition, the social media platform decided that harmful comments should stay in a hidden section, to protect the users. So, if someone wants to read those comments on a post, they have two options. If they are only interested in reading them in a particular one, then the user can just click on that section and read them. If, for some reason, they want to have direct access to all comments, whether good or bad, there’s an option on the settings which allows it. This feature is very interesting because it is set by default, and a lot of people won’t ever bother to change it. This way, it is very likely that most of the harmful comments aren’t seen by anyone, except by the person who wrote them.
On the other hand, the excessive use of social media platforms has been a concern for a few years. Instagram has been trying to fight it with a nudge. Essentially, a message appears on the feed when you have seen all new posts since the last time you were on the app. The main idea would be for people to leave Instagram and enjoy their time doing any other thing, rather than seeing repeated posts. However, this nudge is more difficult to apply than others. Although the intention is the correct one, there might be some complications. Firstly, the users can just go to the discovery or Reels feeds and stay there for hours, mainly due to the enormous and diversified amount of content. Another possibility is that people might feel the need to scroll down enough to receive the message, spending more time than they normally would. So, a nudge whose intention is to decrease the time spent on the app, may end-up making people stay there longer.
What is next? It is still very early to measure the impacts of these nudges on the overall behaviour of users. However, a lot of other platforms have acted as well, trying to bring awareness on these topics, which are crucial nowadays. Nudging on social media is an emerging idea, but it is also one that can improve everyone’s lives.
Ravenscraft, Eric, 2019. Instagram’s New Anti-Bullying Nudges Could Actually Work. [online] Available at: https://onezero.medium.com/instagrams-new-anti-bullying-nudges-could-actually-work-9811ef41b8cb
Twitter nudges users to read before they retweet. E&T. June 11, 2020. Available at: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2020/06/twitter-nudges-users-to-read-before-they-retweet/
Hatmaker, Taylor, 2020. Twitter runs a test prompting users to revise ‘harmful’ replies. [online]. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/05/twitter-harmful-replies-prompt-harassment-test-feature/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAIfi9AmLv9i4EtFZBH32nciegwAeoOXtvdOWGCyAXyT8jcKd-sqDuAdbazkn2x1wNLQ4-1MHKDYd0-O4fMGs_AzOszwADKnFtp-xzeDexkAjDdQCoiJtbcRu1zEd8BMjDX7783wwwuhDYYOfdw3eOuvprhxfVao-FiY5fyfDV3IA
Thomas, Brian, 2019. How Instagram Tries to Nudge Users Away from Excessive Use- Does it Work? [online]. Available at: https://www.cyberwise.org/post/2019/01/11/how-instagram-tries-to-nudge-users-away-from-excessive-use-does-it-work
11 facts about cyberbullying. Do something. [online] Available at: https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-cyber-bullying
Fitzgerald, Britney, 2012. Bullying on Twitter: Researchers Find 15000 Bully-Related Tweets Sent Daily. [online]. Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bullying-on-twitter_n_1732952
Lorenz, Taylor, 2018. Teens are Being Bullied “Constantly” on Instagram. [online]. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/10/teens-face-relentless-bullying-instagram/572164/