Abstract Online news is gradually settling in as one of the recognized medium of news dissemination. There are however worries on the credibility of such news considering the fact that anyone can be a news agent on the internet. One news people rarely play with is news concerning their health so they are mostly likely to in desperation make use of news on health matters they come across. This research work seeks to ascertain the level of believability of health news on social media. The researcher using a multi stage sampling system studied a total of 151 people. Findings showed that people are aware of health news on social media and make use of this news but mostly believe it only when they are sure of the credibility of the source. The researcher concluded that the risk of adulterated health news was much to be ignored hence the recommendation that people must be sure of their source of news before consuming same while regulatory bodies and news agencies should ensure that quality of news on health are carefully monitored to avoid health complications therein.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Effective communication is the bedrock of any industry, which includes using the right tools to disseminate reliable, credible, and useful information to one’s target audience. A lack of effective communication creates various problems in the interaction chain.
Social media is a major factor in influencing various aspects of consumer behaviour including awareness, information acquisition, opinions, attitudes, purchase behaviour, and post-purchase communication and evaluation (Obar and Wildman, 2015). According to Kaplan and Haenlein(2010), consumers can be influenced by the reviews of other consumers who have bought similar products and services, especially if the reviews are on the negative side. Globally, an average of 41 percent of consumers are more likely to share a negative experience via Twitter or by writing a review, while 59 percent of consumers are less likely to share it (Kietzmann and Kristopher, 2011).
In addition, the believability of information needs to be assessed prior to measuring the credibility of information. Abdullah (2010) suggests that different aspects, such as quality and source of information, may determine the level of credibility of information.
Newer communication technologies have increased the possibilities for how people can send and receive information. Social media is a technology that has seen increased usage as an information source (Pepitone, 2010). Social media has being used to seek information about serious topics, such as circulating up-to-the minute information about cholera outbreaks in Haiti and identifying clean water sources during this outbreak (Sutter, 2010). Social media has also seen a great deal of usage by those seeking health information, with 59 percent of adult Americans (80 percent of internet users) reporting that they have accessed this type of information online (Fox, 2011). As this Pew Report suggests “people use online social tools to gather information, share stories, and discuss concerns” (Fox, 2011). Similarly health professions and organizations are seeing the advantages of adopting social media because it is seen as an information equalizer allowing access to health care information for populations who, in the past, would not have this access (McNab, 2009). It provides a sense of privacy for the information seeker in that he/she does not have to disclose personal information in order to obtain health related information.
However, a major question surrounding the use of social media as an information source is how people assess the source credibility of this information and believe same (Westerman, Spence & Van Der Heide, 2012). This question becomes especially important to answer for users of social media, as the gatekeeping function switches from producers to consumers of information for newer technologies (Haas & Wearden, 2003). These newer channels provide new pieces of information not available in “legacy” channels which may be used to make credibility judgments, such as the ability to see how quickly and recently a page host updates their page.
In Nigeria, study has revealed that the kinds of health news available on social media are not as reliable as should in a professional sense. Ugwu, (2015) worried that individuals are exposed to health news and tips capable of aggravating their health challenges as the new media carry un verified pieces of information. He however identified that the traditional media with a presence now on the new media has being making frantic efforts at bridging this gap just as some new media are equally trying in the area of facts verification.
The current study examines how this piece of information impacts a viewer’s cognitive elaboration and their perceived credibility of the source. It is these credibility crises and its effects on audience believability of health news that has resulted to this research work.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In recent years, social media has practically taken over and almost defeated the older news platforms that have been in existence especially the traditional media one can say. However, as the day progresses, there is an increasing concern of whether news shared on social media has enough credibility as the internet is thronged by fake news peddlers as the years go by. More worrisome is the impunity of social media news mongers on news circulation without authenticity or confirming news (Haas et al, 2003). This trend repeatedly casts a doubt on the mind of the audience and users of news on social media.
Health news is one news many people don’t joke with hence they search for and often take such news seriously. The fear of credibility of social media has however brought about doubts and believability of health news with a rising concern among users, health practitioners and control agencies on its believability considering the very grave effect any fake health news can have on its consumers hence this research work aimed at finding out awareness believability and usage of health news on social media.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this research work is to ascertain the believability of health news on social media by UNIZIK undergraduates. The specific objectives are;
- To identify the level of awareness of UNIZIK undergraduates of health news on social media.
- To identify the level of believability of health news on social media.
- To examine the extent of usage of health news on social media.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Drawing from the objectives raised in 1.3 above, the researcher came up with the following research questions;
- What is the level of awareness of UNIZIK undergraduates of health news on social media?
- What is the level of believability of health news on social media?
- What is the extent of usage of health news on social media?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The significance of this research work cannot be over emphasized partly due to its time and secondly due to the importance of the topic. The work will be relevant to students, researchers, regulatory agencies and the government.
In practical terms, this research work will equip researchers on core areas to widen their study on this topic just as it would expose in great ways the rate at which people access health news on the social media and make use of the same with its implications. It is therefore not to be doubted that audience would then decide after they are armed with information from this research work weather to take serious health news on social media and how to identify which health news sites are credible enough to be taken seriously. It would also help the regulatory agencies and news agencies to know how to approach dissemination of and approval of news to be recommended for use or published relating to health news on the social media. It would also be useful to government as they will draw a wide knowledge on policy making concerning social media usage and control.
Theoretically, this research work will open up more areas of interest for further research. It will also, serve as a reference material for scholars, news agencies, students and interested parties who seek to explore other aspects of health news on social media.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study will be concentrating on undergraduate students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka due to research that potrays their age bracket as having the highest incidence of usage of the social media (Jerry, 2015).
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Believability: To have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so: only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.
Health: This is a state of being hale, sound or whole, in body, mind, or soul; especially, the state of being free from physical disease or pain.
Health News: This is a report of recent happenings, occurrences, breakthroughs, events, intelligence and information on health related issues. It is news that revolves around the well being of people or sound state of mind.
Social Media: Social media are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.
Usage: The act of using; ode of using or treating; treatment; conduct, with respect to a person or thing; as good usage; ill usage; hard usage.
Awareness: This is a state of elementary or undifferentiated consciousness.
Undergraduate: This involves all members of a university or a college who has not taken his first degree; a student in any school who has not completed his course.
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