Date:Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Author:Christian Ward

In this episode, Christian Ward, head of Multimedia Strategy at Stylus, discusses one of the biggest issues of our time: how to make sense of the world when the news, journalism and communication in general have become toxic and divisive. With Lindsey Wehking, associate director of strategy at Nonfiction Research.

Guests on This Episode

Lindsey Wehking is associate director of strategy at US market research firm Nonfiction Research.

Episode Discussion Points

  • On the work Nonfiction Research does and its unusual research methodologies [0:50]
  • Examples of recent research projects from the company [3:32]
  • How it approached researching the issue of toxic news [5:00]
  • Why 50% of Americans are frustrated by perceived bias from the left and right [7:15]
  • Why people feel pressured to pick sides, even if they're not fully dedicated to an ideology [10:56]
  • On the test Nonfiction Research designed to help solve these issues [14:28]
  • How this solution could work in real world situations [19:49]
  • How to address the toxicity of social media discourse [23:45]
  • How can brands apply this research to their own work? [26:09]

Key Quotes

"We're at a time when the way we make sense of the world has been so democratised that we're all kind of journalists for each other – my aunt on Facebook, and some stranger on Twitter, and Joe Rogan, all have the same level of influence as the New York Times. So we wanted to really acknowledge that reality at the root of the investigation." [5:55]

"Twenty per cent of Americans told us that they've sent a news article to someone just to agitate them, and it's having a huge impact on our relationships – 30% of people say it's strained or ruined a relationship." [9:12]

"Twenty-seven per cent of Americans say they secretly doubted a political or social stance they've taken publicly, and 29% of millennials post on social media just so someone can think they were on the right side of an issue." [11:45]

"[French philosopher Rene Girard said] most of our behaviour is based on imitation, that we're kind of imitating each other in these subconscious ways, and a lot of that's hardwired into us. We're social beings, designed to create social connections between people, and that form of imitation is a way to create connection between us. But when you have it on this scale and on these issues, it creates this fanaticism." [12:23]

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