I’m seeing it more and more on social media, particularly on Facebook — someone will share an article, but rather than sharing a link to it they’ll just share a screenshot of the title and the first few sentences of the article.
This causes a few problems, with the main one being a lack of information. When people only have the title to base their opinion on, then that’s what you get. Some may search to find the full article and read it, but most will just respond to the headline. Rather than reading the article to get more context, people react to the title alone (which often is slanted with some clickbait) and may miss the point.
Of course, even with a link in place people will often react without reading.
This practice of sharing screenshots rather than links seems odd to me, so I’ve been trying to figure out what’s causing it. I see three potential reasons.
- Ease of sharing. People are used to sharing photos on Facebook, so they just do that here. I’m not convinced this is the reason, as the initial sharing would be easier as a link than as a screenshot –> crop –> share.
- Facebook algorithms prefer it. There’s no doubt that this is a piece of it, as Facebook’s algorithm much prefers photos than it does external links.
- The third potential reason is so people can hide the content of their “link” from Facebook. I find that this “link hiding” generally happens most when people are sharing content that goes against Facebook standards (anti-vaccine, etc), so burying the content in an image can be one way to get around Facebook’s filters. It’s to the point now that if I see a screenshot of an article instead of a link to a full article, I assume it’s because the user knows that what they’ve posted might not get past Facebook’s filters.
I’m inclined to think that item #2 is the main cause. Suppose maybe 90% of all news stories shared on Facebook are indeed links, but Facebook gives a ton more credit to the 10% that are screenshots so we tend to see those more. That said, item #3 could explain a lot of it as well.
I still wonder why the initial sharer would go to the trouble to create a screenshot of an article headline rather than just sharing a link to the article. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.