As they have been doing for years now, people are still Tweeting and reTweeting links to questionable press releases and articles about psychology, biology, and neuroscience. I watch these fly by in the Twitter stream and wonder why people do this? What is their motivation and reward for throwing junk into the stream?
Tweety Birds are what I call these people who pass links along using as much discrimination as people playing Gossip at a party.
I posted about this in February: Virtuous Tweeting: Do you really, really, really want to send that "science" Tweet? And in February of 2011: Be on guard for psychobabble and brain silliness: Are the numbers of science groupies increasing? I am sure there are probably other past posts in which I have pondered this practice by Tweety Birds.
I was reminded of the Birds today not only by some Tweets but by an article. "The Science News Cycle of Life: Rise, Fall, and Renewal" has an odd conclusion but this quote from the article is related to what I am now highlighting.
[M]edia outlets rely on press releases to both receive and understand new research. Sites like Science Daily and Eureka Alert post these press releases as soon as the embargo lifts. Since research and science is complicated, reporters rely on these sites not only to find the day's latest findings, but to understand what a 60 page write-up means for non-science people. University communications departments put the findings into nice digestible little sound-bites, complete with quotes from the researchers. And since they too want pick-up, they often slap their own snappy headline on the write-up.
Snappy headlines are not the only problem. As I discuss here and here, the press releases often do not report the research accurately. When inaccurate press releases get passed along in the Twitter stream, that inaccuracy problem is compounded. I again ask: Why are people choosing to be a part of this compounding? What is their motivation? What is their reward? I really am mystified.