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This image, or artifact, I found interesting because it displays how Facebook can blow up someone’s ego. Someone’s ego is not the only thing that can be affected by Facebook or just social media in general, it can make an “echo chamber” which gives the user the impression that they are always right. An echo chamber is a metaphorical term about a situation where beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system. How Facebook and Instagram work is they both show you post that are similar to the previous posts that you have liked. Now that Facebook is 14 years old it has two billion members. Facebook controls what content you see according to algorithms and commercial interests. Most of the time people who you are friends with on Facebook are people you have some sort of connection to in real life. These people will most likely share the same interests as you do. The algorithm inside of Facebook knows who in the network you are most likely to engage with which then narrows your vision to the same as the people who see that world the same as you. For example, if you are friends with someone who always posts outrageous content, but you always ignore it and don’t like it, share it, or anything than they will start to disappear from your timeline. This is not a good thing because it can be manipulated by news agencies or journalists. If a news agency wants to gain viewers, they can push for posting things on people’s timelines who agree with certain content. For example, since fox news is more for republicans than democrats then you can expect to find republicans Facebook feed filled with more Fox News than CNN. If a person sees only stories relative to their bias they will become single minded and only view things their way.
Echo Chambers can be detrimental to the way one can think or view the world. Although echo chambers can be good for shopping or researching one topic. In the past decade echo chambers have become the backbone of presidential campaigns. Social media is not the only new source to have some sort of ideological bias of course, newspapers and news agencies have always catered to their audiences. As the Knight Center observed in 2016, “…through social media, professional and other qualified news is mixed with un-checked information and opinions. Rumors and gossip get in the flow.” It was also noted that people may be losing the skills to differentiate information from opinion. This happens because of our reliance on internet giants vested interest in rewarding us with what we enjoy seeing. Everything from our Facebook news feeds and our Google searches are tailored to keep us engaged and generate profits for the internet giants. We humans are much more homogenous than we think, because we tend to interact more with people who echo our ideas. I mean why you would want to be around someone who is always the opposite of you. As the article states, “such findings probably won’t be overly surprising to psychologists, who have long been aware of the human tendency towards confirmation bias.”. A 2015 study in PNAS (Proceedings of the national academy of Sciences) discovered that misinformation flourishes online because users form communities of interest which reinforces and fosters confirmation bias, segregation, and polarization. This past article I just described to you I agree with one hundred percent about what it has to say about echo chambers being dangerous. For example there is an advance of anti-vaccine narratives across the internet. What this means is that there has been an explosion of dubious sources that has allowed them to propagate wildly, undeterred by debunking in the popular press. Even Ireland has seen a drastic fall in vaccinations which was driven by anti-vaccine groups like REGRET, despite the vaccines being able to save lives.
After searching through articles about echo chambers I have found a different phenomenon at play here. The other existing one is called an epistemic bubble. The epistemic bubble is like an echo chamber, but not only do you not trust people from the other side you can’t even hear them. An epistemic bubble is an informational network from which relevant voices have been excluded by omission. Whether the exclusion be purposeful or not it still proves to social scientists that we like to engage in selective exposure. When people start to use social networks built for social reasons and start using them as our news feeds then we tend to miss out on contrary views and endlessly run into agreement after agreement.
Most people predict that those with different political orientations will exhibit different levels of political homophile. Political homophile is the tendency to associate with others similar to oneself in political ideologies. There has been research on personality differences across the political scope. Politically extreme individuals tend to exhibit greater orientation towards clarity and familiarity. This leads people to find themselves inside an echo chamber or an epistemic bubble. They fall into these because of their preference for certainty, because they would rather have the company of people who would reaffirm rather than challenge, their views.
Don’t get me wrong, echo chambers are somewhat good when it comes to online shopping or giving research results, but the main reason I am against echo chamber algorithms on social media is because it creates ignorance. When people do not see both sides of the picture they begin to become ignorant. Not only is ignorance gained because they lose the knowledge that they could have from seeing the other viewpoint, but they can no longer receive constructive criticism. For example in class we have peer review, which is constructive criticism. Without this constructive criticism we would always think that we are right, no matter how much we are wrong. This is what echo chambers and epistemic bubbles do they block out criticism. It has been proven by social psychologists that people on social media tend to enable filters and delete things from their feed that they deem distasteful because most people tend to get online to see what they enjoy. Why would social media giants give the user what they DON’T want to see, that’s just bad business. Even the government has taken part in deleting posts that they do not like.
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