Social media information literacy: Conceptualization and associations with information overload, news avoidance and conspiracy mentality

Raffael Heiss, Andreas Nanz, Jörg Matthes

In this study, we present a novel scale for measuring social media information literacy (SMIL) that encompasses six sub-dimensions: navigation, curation, appraisal, comprehension, creation, and interaction. We also examine antecedents of SMIL, its association with information overload, and possible indirect consequences such as news avoidance and conspiracy thinking. Relying on a two-wave panel dataset (n = 901), we first used factor analysis to test the proposed measurement. The results showed that the six dimensions were empirically distinct and loaded on a higher order SMIL factor. In a second step, we explored antecedents and outcomes of SMIL and its sub-dimensions. We found that not age, but education and frequency of social media use were positively associated with gains in SMIL. Furthermore, SMIL was associated with a decrease in information overload. Information overload, in turn, was associated with a decrease in news avoidance and an increase in conspiracy mentality. Taken together, our results lend support that SMIL may support positive civic outcomes by its potential role in lowering information overload. Helping citizens to acquire SMIL may be one valuable measure to foster democratic resilience.

Department of Communication
External organisation(s)
MCI Management Center Innsbruck
Computers in Human Behavior
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
508007 Communication science
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Psychology(all), Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous), Human-Computer Interaction
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