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March 21, 2018, 11:45 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: www.pewinternet.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   March 21, 2018

Science-related Facebook pages are increasingly popular, which is not at all to suggest that everyone’s gonna start believing in climate change all of a sudden: “News you can use” posts are particular hits, according to a report out Tuesday from Pew Research. “The kinds of science stories people most likely encounter are often practical tips with ‘news you can use’ or promotions for programs and events,” write Paul Hitlin and Kenneth Olmstead, “rather than new developments in the science, engineering and technology world.”

Hitlin and Olmstead analyzed six months of posts from 30 of the most-followed science pages on Facebook. Half of that group was accounts from big organizations like National Geographic and the Discovery Channel; the other 15 pages were “Facebook-primary” accounts “from individuals or organizations that have a large social media presence on the platform but are not connected to any offline, legacy outlet” — the most popular of those is I fucking love science, which has more than 25 million followers. The rest of the top five Facebook-primary accounts, which will seem strange to you if you’re not already immersed in this corner of Facebook: Health Digest, David Avocado Wolfe (he sells products like “longevity drops”), ScienceAlert, and Hashem Al-Ghaili’s Science-Nature page.

Some of the report’s findings:

— These pages post a lot. “On average, the 15 popular multiplatform Facebook pages have increased their production of posts by 115 percent since 2014, compared with a 66 percent increase among Facebook-primary pages over the same time period.”

— The most engaging posts aren’t always particularly science-y. “Four of the top 15 most-engaging posts from Facebook-primary pages featured inspirational sayings or advice such as ‘look after your friends’ or ‘believe in yourself.’ And, the single most-engaging post among the multiplatform pages was an expression of support for those in Paris after a terrorist attack” (that was a post from National Geographic).

— Most of the pages focus attention on one or two subject areas, with health and food posts being especially popular. Meanwhile, “science-related stories at the center of public divisions did not appear often on these Facebook pages.” These pages aren’t for discussing climate change, for instance.

— The amount of scientific research promoted by the pages varies widely. The multiplatform pages (like Discovery Channel) were more likely to link to external research sources.

The full report is here.

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