I consider myself quite well read and politically informed on topics relevant to both sides of the border. I read the news voraciously, I stay up late watching Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah, I get HBO just for John Oliver. The best clips I share on Social Media, that is, if my feed isn’t blowing up with it already. So you can imagine my, and all of my friends, reaction during the American election as we collectively watched the election results roll in and they were a complete surprise. I have hundreds of friends on Facebook and Twitter, made up of a fairly diverse range of gender, age, cultures and political beliefs (for Canadians). None of them showed anything other than mocking horror at the “Trump phenomenon” and I am sure that they experienced the same thing in their feeds. This, I’ve grown to understand is a phenomenon known as the “social media bubble”.
This Wired article confirms what history has already shown us – that Trump was indeed popular, with roughly 50% more Facebook likes than Hilary Clinton. The total social media shares between the two candidates were roughly even, reflecting the actual vote. Interestingly, while the most shared article containing the name “Hilary Clinton” originated from her campaign site, the most shared article with the name “Donald Trump” in the title is on a free blog post – a conversational medium where people talk to people.
As mentioned in the article, Social Media feeds can turn into targeted “echo chambers” where you see more of what you like and less what you don’t. That’s great when you’re looking for movie recommendations, less so when you’re lulled into complacency because you’re existing worldview is never challenged. But I can’t just blame the algorithms for that – I have to admit that I actively muted any voices that didn’t conform to my belief. I mentioned that all my Facebook friends would have voted Democrat had we the chance – that’s not entirely true. I do have that one aunt who I unfollowed; if she wasn’t family, I would have unfriended her altogether. It’s easy to be absorbed by a social media bubble – even easier to build that bubble yourself rather than engage with differing opinions when it’s just so much easier to ignore them and move on.
To be honest, it’s hard to convince myself to seek out and engage with people of differing political and moral opinions. I have a difficult time getting past these sorts of differences in order to find a space in which to negotiate a common ground. I can widen my social media filters to hear more diverse voices, but even if I see them, I wonder if I will actually “hear” them. What about you? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear your strategy for popping your social media bubble.
Twitter: Is anybody out there? Navigating your personal social media echochamber #dialogue http://bit.ly/2lKvV7y
Facebook: The false-comforts of complacency. Yelling into the echo-chamber of my own social media bubbles. http://bit.ly/2lKvV7y