Confirmation Bias on the Internet: You Are Deceiving Yourself

Confirmation Bias on the Internet: You Are Deceiving Yourself

The internet will tell you exactly what you want to hear.
1904
views

Even though we live in a country, in which the freedom to access and spread information is well-protected, we are still in danger of accepting narrow-minded opinions and convenient narratives. We will retreat to gated communities of like-minded people and reject all information that doesn’t affirm our viewpoint. The government isn’t manipulating us; the businesses aren’t manipulating us; the secret societies aren’t manipulating us. On the global forum created by the internet, we are deceived only by ourselves.

What I’m talking about is confirmation bias—“a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.” At its advent, the internet seemed like the perfect solution to confirmation bias. Since the web offered users the opportunity to disseminate and collect information on a global scale, it should have allowed the creation of a broader forum, in which diverse ideas and opinions could be exchanged. People should have become more open-minded through the internet.

Image Credit: http://bp.blogspot.com

But the resulting information overflow wound up depreciating the value of each piece of news or opinion. There was simply too much misinformation and junk data floating around for users to take at face value. All we want from this dizzying forum is truth in a convenient form of simplified reality—in a context that won’t upset us. The role of creating that context falls to social media, news aggregators and search engines.

These functions are programmed to give us the information we want to see to affirm our opinions. Using the subjects we search up on the internet, programmed algorithms expose us to related content that matches our interests. From news articles to social networking posts, all the content we see has already been selected for us. A narrative is created in our minds that may be built on prejudices or misinformation. The “truth” we find through the internet is more often than not an incomplete picture, and we’d never suspect that we can be wrong.

Image credit: younger-associates.com

The Millennials are especially vulnerable to this internet-enabled form of confirmation bias. As the first generation to truly grow up with the evolved form of the internet, we are highly influenced by and connected to social media. Much of our beliefs stem from long-time exposure to the content generated by those programmed algorithms. That’s partially why so many Millennials suspect Hillary Clinton is a corrupt crook and Donald Trump is an irrational fascist even without much tangible evidence to prove so. Social media and news aggregators simply propagate information that sells—even if they’re rumors, conspiracies, or dramatizations—according to our pre-existing notions.

But the consequences of confirmation bias extend past the creation of false narratives and a narrow-minded perception of information. Users will often congregate in homogeneous, polarized clusters known as “echo chambers”. These communities reinforce confirmation bias by compromising on the quality of information and proliferating “biased narratives fomented by unsubstantiated rumors, mistrust, and paranoia.”

In an extreme scenario, in which everyone has joined a gated community of like-minded people, the global forum no longer exists. Users only leave their echo chambers to diffuse information that supports their individual beliefs.

Everyone is proven right, but everyone is also wrong.

It’s a future that’s exactly contrary to what Millennials want from the web, yet we are the generation that has gotten closest to that scenario.

The internet still has the capability to become that global forum. There are many challenges, however, that complicate the exchange of information—data overflow, biased context creators, our own selective thinking. When we’re obsessed with causation and truth, we may ignore information that proves vital to seeing the whole picture.

Each and every one of us must decide whether to accept or to ignore the news presented to us. We have to question the narratives we follow and the beliefs we stand by. We have to accept that we can be wrong. The Millennials have been shaped by the internet, but they still have the freedom to create their own context.

Cover Image Credit: Tuned City

Popular Right Now

A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
20872
views

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

When Words Are Not Enough

Sometimes you just need to be.

89
views

Life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs. We all desire easy fruitful lives where no one ever dies and no one ever leaves. Instead, we suffer through hardships and great trials that test our faith. These conflicts often leave us worn down and feeling helpless. This is the time when words become a languid breeze, going through one ear and out the other. This is what you should do when words are not enough to satiate the pain you hold in trembling hands.

Focus all your energy into just being. No one expects you to get over the tragedy that occurred in your life, so don't force yourself. Just eat, breathe, and sleep until you feel up to doing normal tasks. Whatever circumstance that has stolen your breath and turned your life upside down won't go a week in a couple of days or a week. Wounds like yours don't go away instantly; instead, they take time and nurturing. Sometimes it's best to keep a sore covered but in some circumstances, know that seeing someone is okay.

These tragedies you face are real, and they try to break down the very substances that make you who you are. Counselors and therapists can help you make sense of the burden you carry. There are many reasons why you might be hesitant to see a therapist, but if the burden you carry becomes too much, a therapist can help you lighten that load.

Know that what you are going through is real and it is tough, but you will make it out on top. You are a survivor and a success story. Every single bad thing that has tried to tear you down hasn't succeeded, and this will be no different. Trust me, your story is not over.

Related Content

Facebook Comments