Sharing Truths About the Self: Theorizing News Reposting on Social Media
Research indicates that social media users pay limited attention to accuracy when reposting news. If users do not primarily repost to transmit accurate information, what other purpose does this activity serve? This article contributes to the theorization of news sharing by exploring seven affordances enabled by social media’s reposting features, namely visibility, scalability, persistence, association, meta-voicing, interactivity, and immediacy. Taken together, beyond facilitating the spreading of information, these affordances render reposting an effective means for self-presentation similar to Harry Frankfurt’s notion of bullshit. Like bullshitters, reposters are principally concerned with presenting an image of themselves. However, unlike bullshitters, reposters can be deterred by a post’s inaccuracy. Still, because the social media context draws users’ attention to interpersonal connections, accuracy is often not top of mind when making reposting choices. Thus, as platforms no longer serve only social objectives but have also become integral news sources, what is being communicated primarily for self-presentation purposes may inadvertently be perceived for its informational value. Ultimately, this functional context collapse contributes to the (unintended) spreading of misinformation through individual reposting.