Research on social media content overwhelmingly relies on self-reports, which we suggest are meaningfully limited and likely biased. Instead, we apply an under-utilized method—corneal eye tracking—for gauging attention to content in social media. We expose subjects to different types of Facebook content and track their gaze as they browse through posts. Substantively, we find that news and social content garner equal attention, with politics trailing behind both. We also find that the style of the post matters for attention patterns, with richer content (e.g., pictures, links) enhancing attention especially for social and news posts. Methodologically, we conclude that participants are unable to accurately report the topics and types of content available on the Facebook feed, even immediately after exposure. We discuss the implications of these findings and also make recommendations for appropriate methods in this area.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding for this paper was provided by George Mason University