A New Study Shows You'll Probably Share This Story but Won't Read It

June 24th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

If you're reading this (and go on to share it), congratulations! You're in the respectable minority of people who actually click and read articles that they share on social media, a new study found.

Only four in 10 Twitter users actually clicked on articles they shared, confirming a long-held theory that people on the internet readily disseminate information that they don't fully understand, computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute found.

"People are more willing to share an article than read it," the study's co-author, Arnaud Legout, said in a statement. "This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper."

This is the first dataset of its kind, the authors said. They tracked how many Twitter users shared links to articles from five different news sources over the course of a month. (They collected data from, a company that offers link-shortening). Then they compared that figure to the number of clicks these shared articles elicited.

Only 41 percent of shared articles got clicks.

The study authors didn't attempt to explain the meaning of the trend — perhaps out of fear of what they might find. But The Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey had a theory:

"Among the many phenomena we’d tentatively attribute, in large part, to the trend: the rise in sharebait (nee clickbait) and the general BuzzFeedification of traditional media; the Internet hoax-industrial complex, which only seems to be growing stronger; and the utter lack of intelligent online discourse around any remotely complicated, controversial topic."

Cynical? Perhaps. Plausible? Definitely.

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