Is social media a blessing or a curse? The majority of the world thinks social media is a net positive for democracy, except for the U.S., according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
The study surveyed people living in 19 advanced economies in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. A total of 20,944 people were surveyed between February to June 2022. Of those surveyed, 3,581 were from the U.S.
The report covered multiple topics involving the growth of social media and its effects on society and political ideology. People surveyed in the U.S. were likelier to believe social media is bad for the economy. However, the U.S. responses were an outlier in the survey, where most participants felt social media positively impacted democracy.
Some 57% of all respondents said social media has been positive for democracy in their country, including 64% of Americans. The majority of those surveyed, 84%, believe social media effectively manipulates others and divides political opinions.
The spread of misinformation and fear of foreign countries medaling in U.S. elections have caused Americans to become increasingly weary of social media and online spaces.
In November the BBC reported on how social media could impact the results of the U.S. midterm elections and how both political parties were using social media to persuade voters.
Meta Platforms, the parent company of social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp has been criticized for not doing enough to prevent the spread of misinformation on its apps. In July, Meta launched a new AI program called Sphere to detect and remove accounts and posts sharing misinformation
Poland had the most positive outlook, with only 15% of Polish respondents saying social media has been bad for democracy.
The report also looked at how social media has evolved between generations over the last decade. The survey found that there has been a spike in social media usage among older generations, but Generation Z is more likely to see social media as having positive benefits.
The study looked at data over the last decade when comparing social media usage and found social media usage has increased in all age demographics regardless of country. For example, in Japan, the increase of people over 50 using social media went from 10% in 2012 to 60% in 2022. In the U.S., the number of people over 50 using social media went from 28% in 2012 to 60% in 2022.
18 to 29-year-olds had the most social media use among any age group across the board. In 12 of the 19 nations surveyed, 18-to-29-years-olds were more likely than those 50 or older to say social media has positively affected democracy. Young people also believe social media has made people more knowledgeable and accepting of differences.