Confirmation Bias on the Internet: You Are Deceiving Yourself
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

Confirmation Bias on the Internet: You Are Deceiving Yourself

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

2793
Confirmation Bias on the Internet: You Are Deceiving Yourself
Tuned City

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.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less
houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee
nappy.co

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

94185
college students waiting in a long line in the hallway
StableDiffusion

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less
a man and a woman sitting on the beach in front of the sunset

Whether you met your new love interest online, through mutual friends, or another way entirely, you'll definitely want to know what you're getting into. I mean, really, what's the point in entering a relationship with someone if you don't know whether or not you're compatible on a very basic level?

Consider these 21 questions to ask in the talking stage when getting to know that new guy or girl you just started talking to:

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments