The increasing prevalence of social media has led many Finns to gain more confidence in their political knowledge. This trend may be attributed to the online platforms that provide an environment where individuals can easily find affirmation for their beliefs without necessarily improving their level of political literacy. This contributes to a misjudgment of one's own expertise. Evidence supporting this claim has emerged from a study conducted at Åbo Akademi University.
According to the research, excessive trust in one's political literacy was slightly more common in 2020 (n = 1097) compared to the early days of the social media era 12 years prior, in 2008 (n = 1020). Individuals who follow political news online and on social media are more prone to overestimating their political knowledge compared to those who follow politics through traditional media outlets. Consuming news through traditional media does not engender the same excessive trust in one's own literacy.
"Individuals who are not politically well-informed are particularly susceptible to misjudging their ability to understand politics in the current online news environment. The results of the study are consistent with other research findings, indicating that social media does not promote learning of political facts and that political learning from social media contexts is at best minimal compared to traditional media," says Lauri Rapeli, research director at the Department of Social Sciences at Åbo Akademi University.
The surveys were conducted during similar periods when there were no parliamentary elections in Finland. They consisted of comparable samples of the voting population and included identical questions about political knowledge and self-assessed literacy levels. The comparison also contributes to the broader discussion of the effects of digitized (social) media on democratic citizenship.
"The number of individuals overestimating their own political literacy has increased between the reference points. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that the current media environment, where political information is constantly available through various online platforms, promotes a greater misjudgment of one's literacy compared to what the media environment looked like before the normalization of social media. In the future, this will have an impact on democracy, as it relies on public opinion and can be problematic when viewpoints are based on flawed interpretation or misinformation."