Social networks, the new information channel for the younger generation

Today, 62% of French people get their information via social networks, and this is even more the case among the youngest generations*. According to a study carried out by Ipsos and Sopra Steria in 2022, 73% of 16-30 year olds use a social network or online media to keep themselves informed on a daily basis. This preference for social networks as a source of information reflects a major shift in the way young people consume and interact with news.

Anxiety and information

Young people attach more importance to their mental health than their elders, for whom the notion of ‘mental health’ is still relatively new. As a result, they are increasingly seeking to avoid exposure to news that is often perceived as stressful and anxiety-provoking. A study by the Observatoire Régional de Santé (Regional Health Observatory) reveals that nearly 2 out of 5 teenagers prefer to avoid current affairs, adopting an approach of ‘overall selective avoidance of information’. And yet young people do inform themselves. The main difference is that they prefer to choose for themselves when they are informed and what information they want to receive. Social networks are thus becoming the preferred channel: young people are in control of what they want or don’t want to follow. And if an overly anxiety-provoking piece of information inadvertently finds its way into their news feed, the younger generation can easily switch to other content with a simple ‘swipe’.

News influencers: a broad and proven term?

In this changing media landscape, news influencers are becoming the new faces of news, captivating a growing audience with their analysis and commentary on world events. Figures such as Hugo Décrypte stand out for their ability to provide a unique and personalised perspective on current affairs. In fact, 24% of 18-34 year-olds say they get their news from influencers (Barometer: Kantar/La Croix, 2023). Alongside the emergence of individual influencers, media entirely dedicated to social networks are also seeing the light of day. Platforms such as Brut, Konbini, and Loopsider offer news content designed exclusively for digital platforms, providing an alternative to traditional media. On certain social networks, such as X and LinkedIn, it is still journalists and traditional media that gather the strongest communities. So ‘news influencers’ bring together different types of people and entities. But is it wise to declare that to get information on social networks, young people only go through ‘news’ framed profiles such as the media, traditional and new, journalists and certain more personalised profiles?

Platform algorithms: the purveyors of the good word?

Algorithms play a decisive role in selecting and prioritising the information that users see on social networks. Although these differ from one network to another, there is a certain trend shared by the majority of social networks. There is a degree of personalisation of the content on offer, based on personal interests. Virality is also a criterion for the spread of particular content on social networks. The visibility of information on social networks is therefore largely influenced by algorithms. However, this does not necessarily mean that young people take what they see on social networks at face value. On the contrary, some of them say that they prefer to do additional research on certain information that they have come across on social networks.

Social networks are not just entertainment platforms for the younger generation. They have become major information players, redefining the French media landscape. As young people increasingly turn to social networks for information, traditional media are having to explore new business models to maintain their appeal. Some media are developing content dedicated to the various social networks in order to capture the maximum audience. Some traditional media (Le Monde, Le Parisien, RFI, etc.) have as many as several million subscribers on certain social networks, demonstrating their willingness to embrace the new uses of the younger generation.

By Jeanne Weinand, press relations consultant, Comcorp – Groupe Antidox

*(Guénaëlle Gault, David Medioni, Survey ‘The French and information fatigue’, ObSoCo, Fondation Jean-Jaurès, ARTE, June 2022)