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Where Social Media Fails: 'Echo Chambers' Versus Open Information Source

Where Social Media Fails: 'Echo Chambers' Versus Open Information Source - Facebook, Inc. NASDAQ:FB, Twitter NYSE:TWTR

In many ways, the Internet is probably the single biggest leap in global human communication in history. Social media provides the opportunity to connect with people all over the world who have a wide range of ethnic, cultural and intellectual backgrounds.

On the surface, engaging with the community on Facebook Inc FB 0.08% or Twitter Inc TWTR 2.42% may seem like an excellent way to gain exposure to new ideas and viewpoints. In reality, studies have shown that is can be exactly the opposite.

The search and newsfeed algorithms used by sites like Facebook and Alphabet Inc GOOG 3.99% GOOGL 4.62%’s Google are so good at figuring out what users want to see, that users are now less and less likely to see alternative viewpoints. The end result is that the Internet, particularly social media, can end up an echo chamber that isolates users from opposing viewpoints.

What's The Big Deal?

With more and more people relying on social media for news and information, this trend could have troubling implications.

“The danger is that increasingly you end up not seeing what people who think differently see and in fact not even knowing that it exists,” said Eli Pariser, author of the book “The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You.”

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other sites have no political or ideological agenda other than to increase user engagement and maximize advertising dollars. Therefore, it’s unlikely that any of them will alter their algorithms to create a more diverse environment anytime soon.

So, what can you do to keep from being stuck in the social media echo chamber?

“For me, one of the best things has been actually seeking out and finding folks who don’t think like me who I’m genuinely interested in, as people and thinkers,” Pariser concluded.

Social media has created a brand new way for people to interact that has had plenty of positive effects on the world. But it’s probably best used as a supplement to traditional social interaction, not as a replacement for it.

You don’t need to close your Facebook account, but spending some time talking face-to-face with people who disagree with you is the only way to get the full picture of what’s really happening in the world around you.

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