Abstract: Amid a broader reckoning about the role of social media in public life, this article argues that the same scrutiny can be applied to the journalism studies field and its approaches to examining social media. A decade later, what hath such research wrought? In the broad study of news and its digital transformation, few topics have captivated researchers quite like social media, with hundreds of studies on everything from how journalists use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat to how such platforms facilitate various forms of engagement between journalists and audiences. Now, some 10 years into journalism studies on social media, we need a more particular accounting of the assumptions, biases, and blind spots that have crept into this line of research. Our purpose is to provoke reflection and chart a path for future research by critiquing themes of what has come before. In particular, our goal is to untangle three faulty assumptions—often implicit but no less influential—that have been overlooked in the rapid take-up of social media as a key phenomenon for journalism studies: (1) that social media would be a net positive; (2) that social media reflects reality; and (3) that social media matters over and above other factors.
Keywords: audience; journalism; news; research; social media