Echo Chambers, Confirmation Bias And The Closing Of The American Mind

Echo Chambers, Confirmation Bias And The Closing Of The American Mind

Let's take a look at how social media influences the way the think and traps us within our own ideologies.
337
views

If the 2016 election has proven anything, it's that the U.S. has become an increasingly polarized nation. This is a trend that can clearly be seen across the past decade as the two parties have shifted away from centrist politics and towards a more bi-polar system (for more detail, check out this PewResearch article). This trend is seen across the whole of societal life as the world around us seemingly becomes more and more segmented in belief and divided across a multitude of issues and identities. It often seems that individuals with incongruent belief systems are unable to have reasonable discussions not because they disagree with each other but instead because they are simply working with their own separate unique set of facts. Why is it that America is becoming more divided? Modern theorists offer a simple explanation: the internet. More specifically, social media.

The rise of social media and the internet in theory provides a unique opportunity to expand the worldviews of its users. It would make sense, as the internet allows us to read about, study and interact with people from all across the globe who are different from us culturally, politically and religiously. However, the opposite seems to be happening. This is because social media inadvertently creates something called an Echo Chamber. Essentially what is happening is that individuals, you and I, populate our social media pages with our friends, the people who surround us. It just so happens that we often largely agree politically and socially with those around us. This means that while on Facebook or while scrolling through Twitter, people are much less likely to be exposed to opposing view points. If you live in the South, you are more than likely (on average) surrounded by southern evangelical conservatives. These people will be your friends, your family and your co-workers, and they will be the ones whose posts you see on your social media pages. If you yourself are from the South, you are most likely a Christian evangelical conservative (again, on average); therefore, when you log on to Facebook, you are much more likely to be exposed to content that you already agree with. This is an Echo Chamber; you express your beliefs, and those same beliefs are repeated back to you. Your ideas are rarely tested because you are rarely exposed to individuals that disagree with you.

On top of this, there is a natural tendency among human beings to seek out information that confirms your own idea., This is known as confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is clearly seen in how we interact with the modern news media. Because of the internet, individuals are able to seek out the information they desire to hear and ignore that which they do not believe. The internet provides people with the opportunity to do this. 50 years ago, most people received their information from a few select sources: either the evening news or from whatever newspaper they chose to read. This created a basis for national dialogue because everyone was working from the same set of facts. This system of course was not without its flaws, but it meant that national conversation was manageable. Yet today, people are able to seek out their own individualized platform for receiving information, meaning they have become locked into a perpetual echo chamber that reinforces the opinion they already hold while failing to challenge those opinions in any meaningful way. This destroys national dialogue and helps spread political and social division.

Now, not only is our example from earlier fed back his own ideas on Facebook, but now he also watches Fox News, reads Brietbart News (a very biased alt-right website) and listens to conservative talk radio, all of which continues to repeat his same ideas back to him. Now imagine that this individual were to be confronted by a Bernie-Bro, someone whose friends are also Bernie-Bros and feed him his own idea back to him on Facebook and Twitter, who regularly watches MSNBC and does not miss an episode on Bill Maher. What type of conversation are they going to be able to have? Each of them will already be operating on their own set of facts, and whatever the other says will likely be perceived as alien. It will be like they are speaking two different languages. Each person will think the other is mad, ignorant and foolish, and the conversation will quickly dissolve into annoyance and fighting.

This is what is happening all across the United States and may help to explain this strange and possibly horrifying election cycle. Each candidate is driven by a set of supporters who exist within an almost impenetrable echo chamber in which new ideas are rare and challenging ideas are unheard of. This, in some ways, explains the absurdity of what we have witnessed for the past two years. Each side must play to their base, making assertions to those who are entangled in the webs of an echo chamber, alienating many Americans who exist within the center of the ideological spectrum. This concept emphasizes the need for us as Americans to seek out new opinions that challenge our worldviews and drive us to think more critically about what we believe. The quality of our governance may very well depend on it.

Cover Image Credit: theday

Popular Right Now

To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

253556
views

When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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

Dear Nancy Pelosi, 16-Year-Olds Should Not Be Able To Vote

Because I'm sure every sixteen year old wants to be rushing to the voting booth on their birthday instead of the BMV, anyways.

110
views

Recent politicians such as Nancy Pelosi have put the voting age on the political agenda in the past few weeks. In doing so, some are advocating for the voting age in the United States to be lowered from eighteen to sixteen- Here's why it is ludicrous.

According to a study done by "Circle" regarding voter turnout in the 2018 midterms, 31% of eligible people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted. Thus, nowhere near half of the eligible voters between 18 and 29 actually voted. To anyone who thinks the voting age should be lowered to sixteen, in relevance to the data, it is pointless. If the combination of people who can vote from the legal voting age of eighteen to eleven years later is solely 31%, it is doubtful that many sixteen-year-olds would exercise their right to vote. To go through such a tedious process of amending the Constitution to change the voting age by two years when the evidence doesn't support that many sixteen-year-olds would make use of the new change (assuming it would pass) to vote is idiotic.

The argument can be made that if someone can operate heavy machinery (I.e. drive a car) at sixteen, they should be able to vote. Just because a sixteen-year-old can (in most places) now drive a car and work at a job, does not mean that they should be able to vote. At the age of sixteen, many students have not had fundamental classes such as government or economics to fully understand the political world. Sadly, going into these classes there are students that had mere knowledge of simple political knowledge such as the number of branches of government. Well, there are people above the age of eighteen who are uneducated but they can still vote, so what does it matter if sixteen-year-olds don't know everything about politics and still vote? At least they're voting. Although this is true, it's highly doubtful that someone who is past the age of eighteen, is uninformed about politics, and has to work on election day will care that much to make it to the booths. In contrast, sixteen-year-olds may be excited since it's the first time they can vote, and likely don't have too much of a tight schedule on election day, so they still may vote. The United States does not need people to vote if their votes are going to be uneducated.

But there are some sixteen-year-olds who are educated on issues and want to vote, so that's unfair to them. Well, there are other ways to participate in government besides voting. If a sixteen-year-old feels passionate about something on the political agenda but can't vote, there are other ways of getting involved. They can canvas for politicians whom they agree with, or become active in the notorious "Get Out The Vote" campaign to increase registered voter participation or help register those who already aren't. Best yet, they can politically socialize their peers with political information so that when the time comes for all of them to be eighteen and vote, more eighteen-year-olds will be educated and likely to vote.

If you're a sixteen-year-old and feel hopeless, you're not. As the 2016 election cycle approached, I was seventeen and felt useless because I had no vote. Although voting is arguably one of the easiest ways to participate in politics, it's not the only one. Since the majority of the current young adult population don't exercise their right to vote, helping inform them of how to stay informed and why voting is important, in my eyes is as essential as voting.

Sorry, Speaker Pelosi and all the others who think the voting age should be lowered. I'd rather not have to pay a plethora of taxes in my later years because in 2020 sixteen-year-olds act like sheep and blindly vote for people like Bernie Sanders who support the free college.

Related Content

Facebook Comments