With the United States general election coming up again, audiences are once again invited to join the conversation. To “use hash tag #TheDebate on Twitter”, or “vote on facebook”. To “follow the newest developments as they happen right from the source on this cool app, available for free on iOS and Android”, and “if you download it now, you can vote on who you think won the debate!” This increased participation is aimed at binding audiences and getting them involved with the program, but as recent research shows, is also to the detriment of people’s attention causing them to be unable to differentiate fact from fiction. While it seems unlikely the broadcasters are unaware of this negative effect, they increasingly and actively promote media multitasking to their audience.
A recent study by the university of Wisconsin discovered that the growth of digital, social and mobile media enabled audiences to engage in multiple media activities during their news consumption, and becoming more efficient and concurrent than before. This is nothing new nor surprising: technological developments in personal computing have enabled multitasking for decades, and has already been proven to decrease performance in multiple cognitive areas. What is new, though, is that the study finds proof that media multitasking is also detrimental for the factual political knowledge of the recipient. On top of that, their results show that people who multitask while watching political news actually claim to be more politically knowledgeable than people who don’t. Not only do they misinterpret what they see, hear, or read – they are also ignorant about it.