“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”Gertrude Stein

The closer people are to their own driveways, the better they feel about their own situation. While the world seems awful, people feel individually that they are doing alright.

However, the “everything is terrible, but I’m fine” theory has a cousin… “It’s not me, it’s you.” I can recognize fake news. The person sitting next to me on my flight to Nashville can’t. They are the problem.

In the Gulf South, we trust social media less than we trust local news and our friends and family. We trust national cable news more than we trust social media. But across the region, we spend more time on social media than the average citizen nationally. More than 75% of us are concerned about how our data online is collected and whether that data collection puts our privacy at risk. Then again, 40% of us would rather be served relevant ads at the expense of providing our personal data online. Wait. What?

How we feel and what we believe is influenced by what we see, read, watch and share. Businesses and institutions in the Gulf South must vigilantly manage the trust relationship we have with our most important audiences. Understand the mindset of those audiences, including the apparent contradictions that exist in what information we trust compared to where we go for information. We must choose our own message platforms wisely.

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The debate around fake news, and discussions about what is or isn’t fake news, increased significantly with the elevated role of social media as a leading platform for news and current events. In fact, Pew Research Center reported that one-in-five U.S. adults claim to get their news most often from social media, compared to only 16% who rely on print newspaper.

However, people inherently distrust the platforms they use so frequently. According to a recent poll by Schoen Cooperman Research on Perceptions of Big Tech, 74% of Americans are concerned about the power of Big Tech companies. They consistently believe that these companies have gone too far, as well.

In the 2022 Gulf South Index report released by The Ehrhardt Group and Causeway Solutions, 77% of Gulf South residents are concerned about how companies collect their personal data and use that information. TikTok, a platform infamous for its data collection, is the most distrusted social media platform at 59%, according to a tech poll by The Center for Growth and Opportunity. Facebook, who has also faced legal trouble and accusations for their collection of users’ personal data, is next at 58%.

People are concerned, but these digital age problems are not disappearing anytime soon – especially since people’s fears do not often lead to them abandoning these platforms.

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Our lack of trust in social media/news bubble culture has just as much to do with our fellow citizens as it does our biggest companies.

As chair of the International Social Research Institute Bobby Duffy said, “We have an in-built tendency to think that we’re better at spotting lies and understanding than other people. This pushes us to think that fake news, filter bubbles, and post-truth are other people’s problems, not ours.”

People do not blame themselves for the susceptibility to misinformation crisis. This problem was caused by everyone else. Everyone else is awful at identifying fake news. Everyone else doesn’t pay enough attention, but I am rock solid.

The numbers reflect this sentiment as well. 65% of people across 27 countries think that other people live in their own internet bubble, according to Ipsos’ fake news study. Only 34% were willing to admit that they themselves are a part of this bubble. 68% of Americans believe that average people in their country do not care about facts, politics, or society anymore – they just believe what they want.

We maintain a healthy distrust of each other. 63% of people think they can spot fake news – but only 41% think the average person can.

We don’t trust each other to do the right thing. Only 29% of Americans have faith in their fellow citizens. We see the problems with social media and how the 24-hour surge of information negatively impacts others and the world at-large, but we don’t want to believe that we might be a part of the problem, not the exception to it.

Once again, the less we look at the whole world and the more we look closer into ourselves and our smaller circles, we feel better about our own lot in life.

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There is certainly concern in the lack of trust American citizens have in each other, but there is hope in the trust we still have with those closest to us. 48% of Gulf South residents, as well as the rest of the nation, have faith in the information from their local news networks. Over 30% also report significant trust in their friends and neighbors.

There is an appreciation for local that sticks around. In fact, it’s growing stronger. According to the aforementioned SCR report, 86% of Americans believe Big Tech should be required to offer the same compensation terms to local publishers as they do national news organizations.

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There is national despair, but individual hope. Above all else, in a time when “doom-scrolling” moves from one social media feed to the next, people continue to trust local news, local businesses, and their family and friends the most. As leaders, as businesses, and as people, we need to continue to be reliable and trustworthy to those who are putting their trust in us.

Marc Ehrhardt


The Ehrhardt Group