What Does “Being Informed” Mean? Assessing Social Media Users’ Self-Concepts of Informedness

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 27 June 2022

What Does “Being Informed” Mean? Assessing Social Media Users’ Self-Concepts of Informedness


  • Anna Sophie Kümpel Institute of Media and Communication, TU Dresden, Germany
  • Luise Anter Institute of Media and Communication, TU Dresden, Germany
  • Julian Unkel Department of Media and Communication, LMU Munich, Germany


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Abstract:  In recent years, much research has—more or less candidly—asked whether the use of social media platforms is “making us dumber” (Cacciatore et al., 2018). Likewise, discussions around constructs such as the news-finds-me perception or illusions of knowledge point to concerns about social media users being inadequately informed. This assessment of inadequacy, explicitly or implicitly, builds on the ideal of the informed citizen with a broad interest in current affairs who knows about all important societal issues. However, research has largely ignored what citizens themselves understand as “being informed.” Accordingly, this research project asks what people actually want to be informed about, which user characteristics predict different self-concepts of informedness, and how both of these aspects relate to feelings of being informed in the context of social media platforms. Based on a preregistered, national representative survey of German social media users (n = 1,091), we find that keeping up with news and political information is generally less important for people than staying informed about their personal interests and their social environment. However, feelings of being informed through social media are most strongly predicted by how suitable a given social media platform is perceived to be for keeping up-to-date with current affairs. This suggests that while information needs are diverse and related to different sociodemographic and personal characteristics, most people indeed seem to associate “being informed” with political information and news.

Keywords:  feelings of being informed; information needs; self-concepts of informedness; social media

Published:   Ahead of Print

Issue:   Enlightening Confusion: How Contradictory Findings Help Mitigate Problematic Trends in Digital Democracies (Forthcoming)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v10i3.5310


© Anna Sophie Kümpel, Luise Anter, Julian Unkel. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.