The Trust Paradox

Following on my previous post related to the privacy paradox, today I’m interested in discussing a curious social media related behavior that I’m calling the trust paradox.

As discussed in my last post, the idea of the privacy paradox arises out of the fact that even though people state that they worry about their privacy on social media, they still continue to post private information to social media sites. Similarly, while recent reports from the public policy forum indicate that Canadians do not trust the information they receive via social media channels, social media still remains a popuiar way for Canadians to access news and other information. And furthermore, Canadians love to share information on social media.

A sign that reads "Trust Building"
“Trust Building, Rockord” by Daniel X. O’Neil is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This  tendency to consume information via social media sources despite a stated lack of trust in the sources of the information is something that myself and my research team are calling the trust paradox. Likely due to many factors, including the decline of traditional trusted media sources like newspapers and public radio, the emergence of seemingly infinite choice with the development of digital cable, the emotionality of viral content and the seductive pull of personalized online delivery, Canadians are sharing information that they intellectually know may not be trustworthy. Of course Canadians are not the only ones who state they do not trust social media content and yet share it anyway. Around the world, people are engaging in sharing behaviors that align with the trust paradox. And while we share, bad actors may be weaponizing our online habits to spread propaganda and manipulate our emotions.

So how do we combat the trust paradox? Firstly, we must understand the real reasons behind why people make the information sharing and consumption choices they do, even when they report not trusting the source. By identifying the sub- or unconscious drivers of online information consumption and sharing, we can begin to understand the gaps between what people think they do when they share, and what they actually do. Once we understand these gaps, we’ll be able to educate people about their own information blind spots.

This approach is exactly the one my team will be taking to understand the information habits of Canadians. Revealing the motivations behind the privacy paradox will allow us to begin to address it, and hopefully assist people in their goals of becoming smarter and more critical consumers of online information.

Do you have any insight into why you share what you do online? If so, please leave a comment below.

The Trust Paradox

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