Reversed Agenda-Setting: Youth citizenship (in)formed in social media

Macarena Parejo-Cuéllar, Arantxa Vizcaíno-Verdú, Patricia de-Casas-Moreno

Reversed Agenda-Setting: Youth citizenship (in)formed in social media

ICONO 14, Revista de comunicación y tecnologías emergentes, vol. 20, no. 2, 2022

Asociación científica ICONO 14

Agenda-Setting invertida: Ciudadanía juvenil (in)formada en redes sociales

Definição de Agenda Invertida: Cidadania juvenil (não)educada nas redes sociais

Macarena Parejo-Cuéllar *

Department of Information and Communication. Faculty of Documentation and Communication Sciences, University of Extremadura (UEx), Badajoz, España

Arantxa Vizcaíno-Verdú **

Trainee University Professor. Department of Education. Faculty of Education, Psychology and Sports Sciences at the University of Huelva (UHU), España

Patricia de-Casas-Moreno ***

Department of Information and Communication. Faculty of Documentation and Communication Sciences, University of Extremadura (UEx), Badajoz, España

Received: 28/march /2022

Review: 14/April /2022

Accepted: 30/september /2022

Published: 31/october /2022

Abstract: Digital convergence and platformization have changed the traditional means of interaction in media. With young prosumers increasingly engaged in social media, the conventional media Agenda-Setting paradigm has experienced transformations due to a presumed gap between the news and informational content setting. This study attempts to analyze the perception of young people regarding the information broadcast by traditional media and social networking sites, as well as to identify patterns and characteristics of media consumption in the current digital content sphere. This approach was answered by conducting in-depth interviews with young Spaniards, whose perspectives contributed to identify 21 codes through an inductive-abductive analysis. The results showed a youthful concern regarding how news are selected and disseminated in both traditional and digital media, sharing moral reflections on their chances and drawbacks. This group, which is traditionally considered vulnerable to the influence of information content, argues for a reversed Agenda-Setting constructed on the basis of citizen plurality, extending the information which is already being spread through social media in a short time format.

Keywords: Agenda-Setting; young people; social media; prosumers; information habits; digital convergence.

Resumen: La convergencia digital y la plataformización han transformado los procesos tradicionales de interacción en medios de comunicación. Con jóvenes prosumidore/as cada vez más activos en redes sociales, la conformación del modelo convencional de Agenda-Setting ha experimentado alteraciones bajo una supuesta brecha entre la fijación de noticias y contenidos informativos. Este estudio trata de analizar la percepción juvenil en torno a la información emitida por los medios tradicionales y redes sociales, así como la identificación de patrones y características propias del consumo mediático en la actual vorágine de contenidos digitales. Para dar respuesta a este planteamiento, se realizaron entrevistas en profundidad a jóvenes españoles cuyas perspectivas facilitaron, mediante un proceso analítico abductivo, la identificación de 21 códigos. Los resultados mostraron una preocupación juvenil por los modos en que se seleccionan y difunden actualmente las noticias en medios convencionales y digitales, con reflexiones morales sobre sus oportunidades e inconvenientes. Este segmento poblacional, considerado tradicionalmente vulnerable ante la influencia de los productos informativos, aboga por una Agenda-Setting invertida, construida sobre la base de la pluralidad ciudadana en la que se amplíe la información que, actualmente, ya se propaga fugazmente por las redes sociales en contenidos que se extienden en escasos minutos.

Palabras clave: Agenda-Setting; jóvenes; redes sociales; prosumidores; hábitos informativos; convergencia digital.

Resumo: A convergência digital e a plataformização transformaram os processos tradicionais de interação dos meios de comunicação. Com os jovens prosumidores cada vez mais ativos nas redes sociais, o modelo convencional de definição de agenda midiática tem sofrido alterações por uma suposta lacuna na definição de notícias e conteúdos informativos. Este estudo procura analisar a percepção dos jovens sobre a informação difundida pelos meios de comunicação tradicionais e redes sociais, bem como identificar padrões e características de consumo dos meios de comunicação no actual turbilhão de conteúdos digitais. A fim de responder a esta pergunta, foram realizadas entrevistas em profundidade com jovens espanhóis, cujas perspectivas permitiram, através de um processo analítico indutivo-abdutor, a identificação de 21 códigos. Os resultados mostraram uma preocupação deste público com a forma como as notícias são selecionadas e divulgadas nos meios convencionais e digitais atualmente, com reflexões morais sobre as suas oportunidades e desvantagens. Este segmento da população, tradicionalmente considerado vulnerável à influência dos produtos noticiosos, advoga por um Agenda-Setting Invertido, construído com base na pluralidade social, que amplia a informação que atualmente se propaga de forma fugaz nas redes sociais em conteúdos que duram poucos minutos.

Palavras-chave: Agenda-Setting; jovens; redes sociais; prosumers; hábitos de informação; convergência digital.

1. Introduction

The theory of Agenda-Setting has evolved due to new digital environments, giving rise to new communication paradigms. Based on this dramatic alteration of perspectives in terms of media and information consumption, this study aims to analyze the perception that young people have of information broadcast by traditional media, understood as television, radio, the press and cinema (Cubas et al., 2020), and social media, as well as to identify patterns and characteristics specific to media consumption in the current vortex of digital content.

The starting point is the that social networks are considered to have become a reflection of the public agenda, and it is necessary to analyze the issues that affect the habits of Spanish youth in terms of information. According to McCombs (2006, p. 20), the informational and topical landscape “is a complex intellectual map that is still in the process of evolution”, of which he recognizes that, following the emergence of the Internet, it has become a communication tool that shapes the users' debates. For their part, Diéguez and Gonzalo (2020) confirm their ability to establish debate topics among citizens, based on the analysis of the social influence of traditional media. To this effect, the public agenda has reached a new reflection in the digital context, where the development of technologies has provided public opinion with alternative spaces for debate and interaction.

2. Theoretical framework

2.1. The power of the media: the configuration of Agenda-Setting

The Agenda-Setting theory has been a widely studied media model since researchers McCombs and Shaw (1972) defined the hypothesis that the media, based on the information they omit or include in their agenda, influence the audience. These multiple studies have tried to analyze the relationship between the media and the public (Castillo-Salina et al., 2021). According to McCombs (2006), the objective is not only to select a series of topics and discard others, but also to provide clues as to their degree of relevance in terms of the space they occupy, the scope and the time dedicated to them in the news broadcast.

It’s necessary to point out that the media doesn’t use sovereign influence in relation to society’s thoughts, “but they do have influence in telling their readers what they should think about” (Cohen, 1963, p. 13). Similarly, their ability to act as political mediators influences the agenda of those who govern, positioning themselves as instruments of culture. They also stand as creators of trends or cultural patterns, modelers of customs, disseminators of ideas and opinions, and promoters of social and private behaviors (López-Rabadán, 2022).

Despite their evident socio-cultural impact, we are currently witnessing a change of era where the power of the media is beginning to fade (Pingaud and Poulet, 2006). In a world characterized by multiscreen, digital convergence, mediamorphosis and platformization (Poell et al., 2019), the media has transformed and its hegemonic capacity has fluctuated, building on the foundation of progressive communication theories throughout history. As explained by Campos-Freire (2008), the Internet has become the main door for accessing knowledge, information and entertainment. This has raised a number of questions about the role of traditional media in relation to the new ways of broadcasting and perceiving information.

The conventional theories have evolved towards new theoretical paradigms, where the media has modified its dissemination structure between vertical and horizontal models (Scolari, 2022). Paiz-Malespín (2016) make reference to the term Agenda Melding. This concept, coined by Shaw et al. (1999), focuses on how society avoids uncomfortable information that challenges its values and attitudes, trying to locate information that supports its point of view and that avoids its intellectual isolation. This idea relieves old media concerns, such as Laswell's Hypodermic Needle Theory (1927), which alluded to the injection of the message into the mind of society, giving the media the power of manipulation (Diez-Gracia & Sánchez-García, 2022). In this regard, reports such as the Digital News Report (2021) state that this mutation that the media could be undergoing has slowed down due to the international health crisis triggered by COVID-19. The increase of hoaxes and the panorama of misinformation has sparked distrust towards news, slowing down the decline of television which, compared to social networks, continues to be a medium of primarily "truthful" information (Zunino, 2021).

2.2. Social networks as a citizen information space

According to the 7th Study on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn users in Spain (The Social Media Family, 2021), in Spain alone, there are a total of 40.7 million different users across social networks and platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, among others). This large number of active citizens interacting in the digital sphere, playing roles that have nothing to do with those of mere receivers of information as was the case in the past, represents a radical change in communication flows and models (Diez-Gracia & Sánchez-García, 2022), drawing contextual frameworks that are more democratized. Gozálvez-Pérez et al. (2021) allude to the fact that the traditional dissemination of information, subject to creation processes and filters, has been relegated to the background, due to the incessant force that digital media has, as well as to the transmission of information through numerous and diverse channels. However, in order to be able to function in this ecosystem of convergence, it is necessary to develop a critical spirit and adequate media literacy, coupled with a certain informative asepsis or news selection capacity, as an attack against disinformation, malicious news, clickbait, and bots (Aguaded and Romero-Rodríguez, 2015).

On the other hand, due to the rise of digital technologies and flows, a new concept full of expectations and not without controversy, citizen journalism, is emerging with force. Characterized by the participation of all types of people and profiles through the use of digital tools, its sole purpose is to transmit any kind of information that is considered to be newsworthy (Salvat, 2021). From these actions emerges the debate on the use of digital platforms as quality information media, since users find themselves exposed to manipulation, lack of truthfulness and the absence of professional guarantees (Salaverría, 2019). Fernández-Massara (2019) points out that the field of education is where the strategic importance of constructing citizenship intersects with the potential of interactive technologies.

New informative uses appear to continue transforming journalistic-communicative theories. For this reason, it’s necessary for public opinion to adapt to digital protocols and behaviors, allowing citizens to critically redirect their attention towards social information. Therefore, media literacy training becomes key to consolidating professional and amateur efforts, with the aim of improving citizen information consumption (Aguilera and Casero-Ripollés, 2018). Viale-Rigo (2019) adds that it is the media themselves that should invest in the training and encouragement of citizens' critical-informative thinking. Likewise, the author reinforces the idea of not encouraging sensationalism or informative interest, especially at a time when, through algorithms and social networks, lines of thought, hoaxes and various opinions are imposed on young people, who are considered a vulnerable and susceptible population to (mis)information (Strasser et al., 2022).

2.3. Consumption and information habits of young people in the digital scenario

Originally from the Anglo-Saxon world, the concept of "mute generation" has recently been discussed (Fundación Telefónica, 2018), which alludes to a young citizen profile whose age ranges between 14 and 24 years old and who, despite spending extensive hours on the Internet, does not make calls and focuses exclusively on interaction, sending audios and digital contact. This new profile, surrounded by a context in which technologies and platforms prevail, generation X, Y, Z or the "dot com" generation employ fleeting, impersonal and instantaneous strategies to maintain an "always on" relationship with heterogeneous and disparate communities (Vidales and Rubio, 2021).

The arrival of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has changed the way young people live in society, and also their channels for consuming information. Their participation in media is now "heterogeneous, convergent and multiplatform and includes activities such as generating content, giving likes, subscribing, browsing, searching for tasks or simply watching videos, looking at photos, playing games, having fun and socializing, showing interests, subjectivities and forms of socialization" (Lafaurie-Molin et al., 2022, p. 13). In this context, the current generation focuses primarily on social networks to the detriment of traditional media, advocating the era of the prosumer (Clua et al., 2018). However, some studies continue to position the television, in its traditional format, as one of the forms of media preferred by young people as a way of staying informed (Apablaza-Campos, 2022).

According to the Digital News Report (2022), social networks have rapidly replaced news websites as the primary sources of information for young audiences. Similarly, according to the report from the General Media Study (EGM) (2022), young people under 25 years of age avoid political news stories or those related to coronavirus, since it negatively affects their mood. In the same way, they state that they don’t use traditional media because they find it difficult to understand the language used. Some 15% of them even turn to TikTok as a social media platform for staying informed.

Despite this, it’s evident that their time is shared between other digital contexts. Peña-Fernández et al. (2022) emphasize that young audiences tend to consume news on their mobile devices, considering these as part of a larger, constant and broader flow of content. So much so, that the journalistic profession itself has been affected by these new forms of consumption, considering platforms as an efficient and effective way to build narratives, news styles and, ultimately, to address the younger generations (Herrero-Curiel, 2012). For these audiences, characterized by being prosumers, news creators are not only journalists. In addition to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, social networks such as TikTok or Twitch have become one of the main channels of audiovisual consumption for young people (Lozano-Gutiérrez y Cuartero, 2022). Here, they have the opportunity to follow opinion leaders (Rodrigo-Martín et al., 2022), who very often start out on the platform itself as influencers (Abidin, 2018) or micro-celebrities (Senft, 2013).

In short, young people demand a new model of circular communication or role-talking, "that allows for the elaboration of a product and enables a double communicative flow with active intervention from the public as providers, evaluators, protagonists or narrators of the issues" (Túñez, 2009, p. 520), offering them an active and responsible intervention with respect to the information consumed through digital networks (Catalina-García et al., 2021). Moreover, this change of scenery, beyond facilitating communication and information, provides them with other interconnection benefits that link directly with theories already widely analyzed, such as Uses and Gratifications (Tello y Zuazo-Torres, 2022). According to Tarullo (2020), this digitally changing environment allows them to project their social image, offering a happy and narcissistic version, if they wish, of their own lives, which positively influences their status.

3. Methodology

This research focused on a qualitative methodology. This design follows procedures that vary according to the way in which the information is collected and analyzed (Sánchez-Bracho et al., 2021). In this regard, the qualitative approach facilitated the reflection and understanding of a specific social phenomenon, such as the way in which young people perceive the information broadcast by traditional media and social networks, as well as the identification of patterns and characteristics of media consumption in the current vortex of digital content. Therefore, the eminently reflexive and inductive approach allowed for a flexible analysis adapted to the observations of the researchers themselves and the subjects involved (Hernández-Sampieri, 2018).

3.1. Instrument: semi-structured interviews

In accordance with the proposed approach, in-depth interviews were conducted. According to Campoy and Gomes (2009), this procedure is understood as the planned interaction between two or more people, through which opinions on a social event or phenomenon are expressed.

The instrument was defined by means of a semi-structured structure, introducing predetermined questions (according to the previously mentioned theories), in which the interviewees were given feedback and free response (Lopezosa, 2020). The interview consisted of a total of 17 open-ended questions divided, into three dimensions: a) Agenda setting: news coverage patterns; b) Public agenda: public concerns; and c) Social networks: space for interactive debate (Diez-Gracia & Sánchez-García, 2022). The in-depth interviews were conducted in Spanish between February and March 2022. The instrument is available at

Furthermore, in order to contrast the adequacy of the interview, a reliability process was carried out with the collaboration of seven experts in the field of communication, given the informative focus of the study. With the help of the SPSS v.11 statistical data analysis program, the level of internal consistency was calculated using Cronbach's Alpha, the result of which was α=.875. According to George and Mallery (2003), when the Alpha coefficient is >.90, its reliability can be said to be excellent and, additionally, if it is >.80, it is considered to be good. This test showed the reliability of the interview.

3.2. Sample

The sample that formed part of the study was determined by purposive sampling, which, from a qualitative perspective, involves the selection of individuals, groups or contents that provide sufficient and relevant information in order to obtain an in-depth view of a social phenomenon. Or, to put it another way, subjects who are good informants (Morse, 1991), insofar as their experience and knowledge favor the study of a social "reality" in a given context. In this regard, the procedure facilitates the locating and selection of samples that fit the objective or research question, discouraging probability formulas (Shaheen et al., 2019). More specifically, the sampling was guided by the criteria framework, which allows for the identification of cases with similar and significant characteristics for the purpose of the research (Omona, 2013).

Fifteen young Spanish nationals participated in the study, with this population and geographic group being the main focus of the research. The individuals who participated were selected according to markers of: a) age diversity (from 16 to 25 years old, ranging from adolescence to emerging adulthood); b) key transitions (young people active in informational matters, see: young individuals knowledgeable about issues related to informational communication from journalism, advertising, public relations, audiovisual communication, among others); c) and social action (regular consumers of traditional media such as television, radio, press, etc., and emerging media such as social networks, blogs, websites, and others) (Krauskopf, 2015). Following named entity recognition (Hassan et al., 2018), whereby unstructured data are anonymized, safeguarding the intimate and confidential statements of the interviewed youth under informed consent, statements were entered under the structure "0:00_E0" (where "0:00" corresponds to the randomly assigned interview number along with the marked statement number; and where "E0" refers to the interview number).

3.3. Data collection, inductive analysis and data codebook

For the data analysis, the interviews were digitally recorded (with mobile technology) and transcribed manually. These data were processed in text format through the qualitative research software, ATLAS.ti v.22. The analysis procedure involved the inductive and open coding of categories according to the meaning of the identified units (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), see the selective framework of statements and paragraphs to which a code was progressively assigned. After conducting two consecutive analyses, by means of which we identified questions related to codes subsequently observed in other interviews (abductive analysis) (Charmaz, 2009), a definitive codebook was presented, organized by objectives, and grouped by similarity (see the codebook at

4. Results and discussion

In accordance with the objectives, the analysis was built on conceptual maps that will facilitate reflection on the youth perspective. Initially, the co-occurrences between statements and codes were reviewed to guide the discussion.

4.1. Inverted and youth Agenda-Setting

For the study of the ways in which the youth population understands traditional media and social networks as information channels for the achievement of the agenda setting (first objective), 13 codes were identified and grouped by: 1) Advantages and disadvantages of Agenda-Setting; 2) Advantages and disadvantages of social networks as an information channel; 3) Responsibility and information awareness; 4) Credibility and information verification; 5) Information propagation and transience; 6) Information saturation and omission; 7) Information Clickbait.

4.1.1. Advantages and disadvantages of the Agenda-Setting phenomenon

With regard to the youth's judgment of Agenda-Setting, a series of remarks were made during the interviews about its attributes and disadvantages, the latter being the most prominent. In the first instance, the young people pointed to the Agenda-Setting as a social structure that delimits the debates, with their discursive intervention being necessary because, as they point out, "on many occasions it can be complicated to address them" (1:14_E1). This idea was supported by the conception that, without media coverage of a given issue, it can be suppressed from the citizen's reality. It was also observed that the media seem to embrace a kind of (ethical) honesty that gives them the power to select and disseminate topics through a multitude of traditional and digital formats. Other subjects pointed out that Agenda-Setting was shaped in accordance with the prevailing interests of society.

Quotes on advantages and disadvantages of Agenda-Setting
Figure 1
Quotes on advantages and disadvantages of Agenda-Setting

Source: Created by the authors at

On the contrary, Agenda-Setting was qualified as a process that is biased by the tendency and reiteration, sometimes insufficient, that is attached to a programming delimited by the media and information channels themselves, which they claim is "tremendously repetitive and demoralizing" (11:1_E11). In this sense, they alluded to the loss of quality and irrelevance of information, based on "the fashionable topic" (5:1_E5).

4.1.2. Advantages and disadvantages of digital news media

With reference to the digital context, there was greater agreement on its benefits than on its shortcomings. Particularly relevant were the references, in opposing terms, to "clickbait" (15:6_E15), the "numerous fake news stories" (8:8_E8), the "little value" (4:8_E4), and how "information is being distorted" (2:9_E2).

Quotes on advantages and disadvantages of digital news media
Figure 2
Quotes on advantages and disadvantages of digital news media

Source: Created by the authors at

From a positivist perspective, young people pointed out that, without the social networks and users with whom they are usually connected, they would not be aware of many of the events that occur on a daily basis, which they often encounter through shared content. They also highlighted the digital channel as a space for rectification (essential for the retraction of erroneous information), mainly due to the immediate possibility of generating and modifying information. Other aspects mentioned were a) the possibility provided by these platforms, and the Internet in general, to access a variety of sources in order to contrast data; b) the elimination of the information barrier, whose network is accessible to everyone; c) the consumption of information in "streaming", without time restrictions tied to television or radio programming; d) and the breadth of opinions that are propagated in the digital framework.

4.1.3. Information awareness and responsibility

Despite being considered a vulnerable group in relation to information (Strasser et al., 2022), the participant sample introduced perspectives that reflected their concerns about the issues addressed in the media. They insisted on the need for citizens to be informed about any issue in order to nurture cultural knowledge, opinion, democratization and critical judgment, avoiding ignorance about what is happening in the world.

Quotes on information awareness and responsibility
Figure 3
Quotes on information awareness and responsibility

Source: Created by the authors at

From this point of view, they supported the need to define "real, truthful, transparent, universal" information (9:4_E9). In the same way, they defended the journalistic figure, which is subjugated to "the businessmen who lead the management" (2:3_E2) and to "the big companies (communication groups)" (2:7_E2), proposing some professional practices that address the citizens' sensitivity, such as: "I would change the way images are shown, for example, if a person has been killed their face would be pixelated or blurred" (14:2_E14).

4.1.4. Credibility and information verification

Along the lines of youth awareness, two additional criteria were identified, characterized by credibility and informative verification. Commonly, there was agreement on the need to contrast data across different media. They pointed out that in the case of digital media, there is a widespread distrust of information (Pérez-Tornero, 2008), which is why young people expressed that their modus operandi was to corroborate the data. In fact, some revealed that "if I've seen it on TV first, I compare it to what is on social networks" (4:11_E4).

Quotes on credibility and information verification
Figure 4
Quotes on credibility and information verification

Source: Created by the authors at

In contrast, other participants highlighted the reliability of traditional media over digital content, given their prestige and extensive professional trajectory. Therefore, the greater the diversity for reporting information and opinion (social networks), the less rigor and credibility the news has for some people (Salaverría, 2019). Others, meanwhile, took a neutral stance, insofar as they considered that there was no preference for traditional or digital media, since all media and citizen journalists, in their opinion, seek the audience, a like and a share.

4.1.5. Information propagation and transience

Concerns about the way in which information is disseminated were also present throughout the conversations. What stood out in particular was the fleeting nature of news sharing in digital networks and platforms, compared to the programmed and slow structure of traditional media. They pointed out that the current frenetic lifestyle encourages them to consume fast news (Vidales and Rubio, 2021). Faced with a large saturation of content and information, young people showed a preference for platforms such as "Act2ality" on TikTok, oriented to news in less than three minutes in Spanish, or Twitter, which allows them to follow viral news through thematic threads and trending topics. They added that these sites allow them to access information through a single channel (Internet), considering zapping between channels to be a strenuous process to get information.

Quotes on propagation and information transience
Figure 5
Quotes on propagation and information transience

Source: Created by the authors at

4.1.6. Information saturation and omission

Saturation or omission of topics were issues widely discussed throughout the interviews. The population was concerned about the redundancy of issues from the traditional agenda, which prompted them to abandon the traditional media and seek plurality and diversity of information in social networks. Some comments reflected their frustration at this fact, typical of Agenda-Setting, with comments such as "it is tiring to hear the same thing every day" (14:7_E14), "if there is no important update it is quite absurd that they repeat it over and over again" (14:1_E14), "empty content, repetition of arguments narrated in different ways" (3:3_E3), among others.

Quotes on saturation and information omission
Figure 6
Quotes on saturation and information omission

Source: Created by the authors at

In this regard, they pointed to the need to introduce issues relevant to society that are usually omitted. Some comments suggested that, for example, the sports section mostly covers news related to soccer (in view of the wide variety of sports activities). Others commented that, among the news items, scientific, technological and cultural events are limited or almost cancelled out, focusing instead on human adversity (diseases, political conflict, and others).

4.1.7. Information clickbait

To conclude with the first objective, we observed that young people emphasized the (negative) influence of clickbait as a game of "flashy and eccentric headlines to win the click" (2:1_E2), highlighted as a misinformative strategy (Diez-Gracia & Sánchez-García, 2022). The young people’s concept of clickbait seemed to be understood as an attention-grabbing process through which the traditional media transfer their headlines to the Web: "to have the golden headline at any price" (13:1_E13), "with that, the only thing they show is lack of professionalism and poor morality" (13:3_E13).

Quotes on informative clickbait
Figure 7
Quotes on informative clickbait

Source: Created by the authors at

Consequently, they considered that this resource, a product of the Internet, has had a harmful impact on the journalistic work of traditional newsrooms, which have opted for digital broadcasting, inasmuch as "most of the time the headlines are misleading and sensationalist, and very rarely have anything to do with the news they are telling you" (14:4_E14).

4.2. Towards a new reversed Agenda-Setting from a youth perspective

Continuing with the second objective, referring to the way in which emerging digital media can become an alternative Agenda-Setting among the youth population, eight codes were analyzed according to the co-occurrence between: 1) media culture and debate networks; 2) the understanding of reality and the rhetoric of misinformation; 3) media influence; 4) the debate between objective and subjective; 5) media preferences; 6) and thematic preferences.

4.2.1. Media culture and discussion networks

Under the idea of heterogeneous interaction and participation (Lafaurie-Molin et al., 2022), the study sample showed interest in the informative debate through the digital context. Some of the interviewees emphasized the opportunity that digital media provides to "understand the opinions of others and sometimes to contribute my own" (5:7_E5). In this regard, they pointed to the ability to give visibility and voice to groups that traditionally were not included in traditional media (LGBTQI+). They also reported their participation in different platforms (FormulaTV or Xataka) and social networks (Twitch, Twitter, Facebook groups) that generally facilitate online discussion.

Quotes on media culture and discussion networks
Figure 8
Quotes on media culture and discussion networks

Source: Created by the authors at

Although some stated that they did not participate in communities, as they preferred to consume information while avoiding discussion, they pointed out that, on occasions, they transferred the debate to the family nucleus. The participants explained that in this space, generational discrepancies are born, accentuated by the contrast between traditional news (television, radio, press) and online news (social networks, blogs and web platforms).

4.2.2. Reality and rhetoric of disinformation

Opinions about what they considered truthful information (real) and disinformation (unreal) resulted in various contradictions and youth agreements. Generally, participants insisted that digital media are populated by fake news (Zunino, 2021), since "in traditional media there is usually a greater contrast of information sources when preparing a news story" (3:10_E3). However, most insisted that the information provided by these media only reflects a part of the reality and that, on many occasions, is biased by ideologies. Among some of the reasons, they indicated that it's often "to create fear or give the image they want to the viewer" (6:3_E6). That is, they link this truthful but partial reality as a process of media positioning (corporate image), rather than as an informative and democratic duty. At this point, there was widespread support for the way in which the traditional media delimit reality through information, confirming their awareness of the need to look to other scenarios to consult, contrast or broaden their perspectives.

Quotes on reality and rhetoric of disinformation
Figure 9
Quotes on reality and rhetoric of disinformation

Source: Created by the authors at

4.2.3. Media influence

A significant aspect during the interviews was the influence of media figures (from the traditional and emerging context). Although they stressed the relevance, professionalism and seriousness of the traditional media as the preferred means of consuming information (El País, El Mundo, La Vanguardia, 20 Minutos, Onda Cero, Diario Hoy, Telecinco, Antena3...), they also alluded to the authority of other profiles. These include, for example, opinion leaders such as Ángel Martín Gómez (who they follow on Twitch), Mark Hamill, Zendaya, Tom Holland or Sophie Turner (film actresses and actors they follow on Instagram); or accounts of (micro)influencers whose content is generated and disseminated exclusively on social networks such as QuidVacuo, Cinemánia, Geek Zone, SergindSegaSonic, and others. Although we did not identify a priority trend, we did observe how news on cultural and technological issues is expanding to digital networks, given the absence, as mentioned in previous sections, of these topics in the traditional media.

Quotes on media influence
Figure 10
Quotes on media influence

Source: Created by the authors at

4.2.4. Objectivity vs. subjectivity

As for the comments on objectivity and subjectivity of information, although they were minimally discussed, they did provide perspectives that feed the reversed and youth Agenda-Setting in Spain. The majority of participants were conscious of the information bias in the selection and diffusion of news stories. However, they highlighted the need to generate more “neutral” information which would reduce the obvious influence of traditional media on youth. This demand for objectivity and credibility primarily affected the traditional media. In other words, they seemed to perceive traditional media as having greater subjectivity than digital media.

Quotes on media influence
Figure 11
Quotes on media influence

Source: Created by the authors at

4.2.5. Media consumption preferences

To gain a deeper understanding of how youth Agenda-Setting develops, we focused on media preferences throughout the conversations. What stands out is the interest in information content disseminated through emerging digital media, the uses of which are adapted to their needs. For example, for information on specific topics geared toward their hobbies, they turned to YouTube, TikTok or Instagram; for information on national and international topics they turned to Twitter, Google News or LinkedIn; and for information on local topics, they turned to Facebook. Some of them mentioned television as a recurrent channel (and complementary to the previous networks), radio or the press. In short, there was a trend towards the digital scenario that, in these cases, did not conform to a common debate, but to an individual, heterogeneous and diverse interest (Vidales and Rubio, 2021).

Quotes on media consumption
Figure 12
Quotes on media consumption

Source: Created by the authors at

4.2.6. Thematic consumption preferences

Lastly, we analyzed thematic consumption. At this point, we observe a tendency towards youth concerns, discarding issues that have preferably been addressed by the traditional media. In many cases they alluded to social networks as a means of information dispersion and complementarity (Gozálvez-Pérez et al., 2021). For example, Instagram and TikTok for entertainment (instead of radio programs or reality TV shows); Twitter to stay up to date on viral debates; and other platforms to, as previously noted, receive more information about their interests.

Quotes on thematic consumption
Figure 13
Quotes on thematic consumption

Source: Created by the authors at

Some of them proposed new topics, such as "talking about existing inequalities, talking about cultural issues, promoting integration and criminalizing discrimination, being diverse, going out to the streets to talk to citizens. Asking what people want or need, try to offer a collective perspective" (7:8_E7), or about theater, cinema, music and video games, among others. In short, the participants defend an Agenda-Setting that is built on citizen plurality, not by eliminating current issues related to politics, health, employment, or the economy, but by extending the sections and media proposals already propagated in the digital environment.

5. Conclusions, limitations and future prospects

This study has attempted, through conversations with young Spanish nationals, to reflect on their information consumption habits, with the aim of shedding light on the ways in which they contribute to the construction of an Agenda-Setting that is reversed to the traditional one. Based on this approach, the analysis has allowed us to locate where, for this particular section of the population, the media debate is generated. When faced with the question of whether old media is still their main means of accessing reality or whether, on the contrary, it is the platformized context (Poell et al., 2019) that conditions their current communicative flows, young people seem to be suspicious of the topics marked by the traditional media. However, they continue to consider traditional media as necessary, noting in them a certain ideological interest and the need to rethink their current discursive structures so as not to become repetitive, which is sometimes demoralizing. Although they are aware that the web of social networks is fertile ground for misinformation and that, therefore, it is necessary to check other channels such as the media, young people find the Internet to be a space where the advantages outweigh the disadvantages in terms of information plurality. In this critical spirit that is reflected throughout the results, they recognize that they are victims of the transience of information, making frequent use of current affairs reports that last only a few minutes, such as "Act2ality" on TikTok (Lozano-Gutiérrez and Cuartero, 2022). These new generations are rewarded for using the multiplatform context to combine their opinions with those of other users, from an idea of interaction and heterogeneous participation of public opinion that they do not find in conventional channels (Peña-Fernández et al., 2022). Among their reflections, Spanish youth also recognized the power of other emerging communication figures and digital convergence as avenues of information dispersion and complementarity (Abidin, 2018; Senft, 2013). It also states the need for radio, television and other traditional media to respond to the communication needs of citizens, and less to the parameters of thematic or ideological fashions.

In view of the above, this exploratory analysis lays the groundwork for research on a topic that should continue to be the subject of further studies. The data extracted show the need to continue studying the dynamics of media consumption and interaction through platforms such as TikTok or Twitch, or proposals related to on-demand news consumption.

Author’s contributions

Macarena Parejo-Cuéllar: Conceptualization, Writing - original draft, Writing - review and editing. Arantxa Vizcaíno-Verdú: Conceptualization, Writing - original draft, Writing – review and editing. Patricia De-Casas-Moreno: Writing - review and editing. All authors have read and agree with the published version of the manuscript. Conflicts of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Funding Agencies

This paper has been prepared within the framework of Alfamed (Euro-American Network for Research in Media Competences for Citizenship), with the support of the R&D&I Project (2019-2021), entitled “Youtubers and Instagrammers: Media skills in emerging prosumers”, with the key RTI2018-093303-B-I00, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and of the R&D&I Project (2020-2022), entitled “Instagrammers and youtubers for the transmedia empowerment of the Andalusian citizenship. The media skills of instatubers”, with the key P18-RT-756, funded by the Junta de Andalucía in the 2018 call (Andalusian Plan for Research, Development and Innovation, 2020) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


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Author notes

* Associate Professor. Department of Information and Communication. Faculty of Documentation and Communication Sciences, University of Extremadura (UEx), Badajoz, Spain

** Predoctoral Researcher, Trainee University Professor. Department of Education. Faculty of Education, Psychology and Sports Sciences at the University of Huelva (UHU), Spain

*** Associate Professor. Department of Information and Communication. Faculty of Documentation and Communication Sciences of the University of Extremadura (UEx), Badajoz, Spain

Additional information

Translation to English : Emily Jayne Rookes

To cite this article : Parejo-Cuéllar, Macarena; Vizcaíno-Verdú, Arantxa, & de-Casas-Moreno, Patricia. (2022). Reversed Agenda-Setting: Youth citizenship (in)formed in social media. ICONO 14. Scientific Journal of Communication and Emerging Technologies, 20(2).

Cómo citar
ISO 690-2
ICONO 14, Revista de comunicación y tecnologías emergentes

ISSN: 1697-8293

Vol. 20

Num. 2

Año. 2022

Reversed Agenda-Setting: Youth citizenship (in)formed in social media

Macarena Parejo-Cuéllar 1, Arantxa Vizcaíno-Verdú 2, Patricia de-Casas-Moreno 1