A recent Roy Morgan SMS Survey has revealed that social media is the most distrusted industry, with extremely low levels of trust and significant levels of distrust.
According to Roy Morgan, the survey was conducted with the most recent Risk Monitor data for the 12 months leading up to June 2022. It reveals a clear distinction between Australians’ perceptions of the internet and social media.
Around 63.8 per cent of Australians concur that the internet “solves more problems than it creates” compared to 36.2 per cent that disagrees. Meanwhile, less than a third of Australians, or 28.7 per cent, concur that social media “solves more problems than it creates” in contrast to a substantial majority of 71.3 per cent that disagrees.
Roy Morgan said the nearly identical results show how differently Australians view the internet and social media, as do the explanations provided by Australians for the findings.
According to the respondents, the internet provides easy access to information, education, or access to a variety of information and makes life easier and provides convenience.
“Allows instantaneous connection between people regardless of location, greater information sharing, access to diverse perspectives and real-time updates for important news/events. All of which provide an incredible benefit,” one respondent said.
Another respondent stated: “Internet provides access to information; knowledge and learning is more accessible; telehealth provides more access especially for more remote and rural populations; interconnectedness brings social issues into public view.”
On the other hand, the key negative issues that emerged from those who claim that social media “causes more problems than it solves” are that it “spreads misinformation, has uninformed opinions, lies, that news, or information that is posted there is wrong from the start”, it has “problems with bullying and harassment”, and that it can be “bad for health and especially mental health”.
“Social media facilitates the spread of misinformation and foments political polarisation and radicalisation through the echo chamber effect. News and current affairs are condensed into digestible and shareable nuggets devoid of nuance or objectivity,” one respondent said.
Another respondent stated: “In the drive for engagement, social media companies enjoy better metrics from divisive or misleading statements than unifying or informative ones, with no incentive to provide a better or more positive form of engagement.”
Another respondent added that people could say defamatory, cruel, and otherwise unacceptable things without fear of consequence or accountability.
After a steady rise in distrust in social media since mid-2019, new lows were noted in early 2022, though there have been some flimsy indications of a decline in distrust in recent months.
Australians in the age range of 25 to 49 make up the majority of the key demographic of people who distrust social media, with the sector receiving extremely high distrust scores. Other age groups also have minimal trust in social media.
Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said the survey’s findings, which show that most Australians think social media causes far more problems than it fixes, starkly illustrate the various perspectives people have on the internet and social media.
“The social media industry continues to face a high level of distrust that contrasts with the generally positive view on the internet more broadly. Strikingly, only around a quarter of Australians, 28.7%, agree social media ‘solves more problems than it creates. When asked to explain why they believe Social Media ’causes more problems than it solves’, people frequently mention that it ‘spreads misinformation, lies and fake news’, it has ‘problems with bullying and harassment’, and it can be ‘bad for health, and especially mental health’,” she added.
She claims that the negative public perception of social media poses a significant obstacle for the leading businesses in the sector as they work to restore the value of their brand equity.
“Distrust starts with doubt and suspicion and quickly accelerates to fear and action. This is when customers begin to desert a brand. A recent example is AMP and how soaring levels of distrust all but destroyed its share price and market capitalisation,” she stated.
Levine said trust could not be restored until distrust is neutralised.