Imagine if the only views you ever heard were echoes of your own thoughts. Would you be more or less-informed about the world?
Social media provides us with the ability to share our thoughts, ideas and opinions with friends and communities who share our interests. It also provides us the ability to filter the content to which we are exposed to only that which interests us. Some platforms even do that filtering for us, based on our own use habits. What results is our social networks become homogeneous groups – people who think just like us.
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the spreading of misinformation online included two interesting findings about our social media habits:
1. We are susceptible to confirmation bias
As humans, we have a natural desire to want others to agree with us, or “like” our posts. We reinforce this when we limit our social networks to communities of common interest. This leads to confirmation bias if we only ever receive feedback which agrees with our own perspectives.
2. Our social networks become echo chambers
An echo chamber as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is “an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered”. Because our social networks are communities of common interest, the content that we follow and share will be similar in terms of view-points.
While we may feel social media broadens our horizons by allowing us to connect with people throughout the world, it can in fact lead to much narrower perspectives.
Overcoming the echo effect
As I considered my social media feeds, I asked myself “what am I not seeing?”. Most news outlets tend to be either left or right-leaning in their reporting. I now try to include a balance of both in my feed. I believe equally important to my news feed is engaging in discussions beyond my online network. Face-to-face conversations about current events and life challenges always tend to shed new light on my own views.
What are you doing to overcome the echo effect in your social networks?
Is social media making us narrow-minded? http://bit.ly/2fWmaFo
Are you caught in a social media echo chamber? Find out how to get out of it. http://bit.ly/2fWmaFo