Have you ever stopped to think about how you consume information? For example, do you consider yourself eager and willing to learn, relatively trusting of information sources, and anxious to improve on digital skills? Or would you say you’re more cautious, with a lower overall trust in information sources, and generally stressed out when it comes to trying to new things? Perhaps you’re doubtful, wary even, are highly suspicious when it comes to accepting new information with little interest in developing new skills.
According to a new report just released by Pew Research entitled “How People Approach Facts and Information,” there are generally five types of information consumers in the U.S. adult population including the Eager and Willing, the Confident, the Cautious and Curious, the Doubtful, and the Wary.
According to the report, roughly four-in-ten adults (38%) are in groups that have relatively strong interest and trust in information sources and learning. And would you believe: about half (49 percent!) fall into groups that are relatively disengaged and not very enthusiastic about information or about gaining more training, especially when it comes to navigating digital information. A description of the five different categories of information consumers follows below:
As a professional communicator, have you ever had your message completely miss the mark? If so, this new research may help explain why. To share an example, check out this just released TED interview with veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour on the topic of finding truth in the era of fake news.
As a journalist, Amanpour’s mission is to investigate and report on the truth, a.k.a. facts. But such truths may not always find their way to an audience that’s ready to hear the message. In the interview, Amanpour shares an experience she had while reporting from the front lines of the Balkans War over 25 years ago in which she said:
So, we knew what we were seeing. Trying to tell the world what we were seeing brought us accusations of bias, of siding with one side, of not seeing the whole side, and just, you know, trying to tell one story. I particularly and personally was accused of siding with, for instance, the citizens of Sarajevo — ‘siding with the Muslims,’ because they were the minority who were being attacked by Christians on the Serb side in this area. And it worried me. It worried me that I was being accused of this. I thought maybe I was wrong, maybe I’d forgotten what objectivity was. But then I started to understand that what people wanted was actually not to do anything — not to step in, not to change the situation, not to find a solution.
In other words, what Amanpour is describing here is the concept that information is limited in its reach by an individual’s ability to process it. To combat this, she suggests that we urgently become more personally responsible for becoming more information literate:
Really be careful where you get your information from, really take responsibility for what you read, listen to, and watch … our problems are so severe, that unless we are all engaged as global citizens who appreciate the truth, who understand science, empirical evidence and facts, then we are simply just going to be wandering along to a potential catastrophe.
Now it’s your turn. What type of information consumer are you and why? Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!