As we approach the presidential election, I’ve noticed the political activity on my social media feeds rapidly increasing. I can’t spend 15 seconds scrolling through Twitter or Facebook without seeing political articles, advertisements, comments, or arguments. Instagram is my only safe haven. One thing I also notice is that most of the content reflects a liberal, Democratic perspective.
During an election season, the idea of the echo chamber becomes even more relevant than during other times. According to wikipedia, an echo chamber is defined as “a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an ‘enclosed’ system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed or otherwise underrepresented.” (For fun).
In layman’s, or social media terms, one would have an echo chamber if she chose only to follow or friend those with similar ideas and beliefs. Much has been written about social media’s impact on creating echo chambers.
I don’t think the Internet has made people any more likely to participate in an echo chamber–I would argue that people are even more likely to socialize in-person with people who share their viewpoints. The internet and social media do provide people a clear opportunity to shed their echo chamber and participate in dialogue with people with whom they disagree; however, many don’t take that opportunity.
According to a recent study by Facebook, “Nearly 30 percent of all the news content that people see in the News Feed cuts across ideological lines.” Additionally, “Nearly 25 percent of the news articles that people click on cut across ideological lines.” But I’d argue that many of those 25% are clicking to find out what those crazy (fill in the “other”) people are saying today.
On Facebook, for me, it comes down to whether I want to claim as friends people with beliefs I view as hateful, bigoted, or ignorant. I’ve recently had numerous opportunities to pare down my friends list as people have revealed themselves to be any of those adjectives. I increasingly find myself unfriending those who post content that I find offensive. I also am completely willing to ban posts from outlets like The Conservative Tribune from appearing on my social media feeds.
To counter my Facebook echo chamber, I choose to follow conservative outlets on Twitter that I may disagree with but at the same time consider legitimate. Through these accounts I keep myself informed about conservative and Republican perspectives while disallowing offensive content.
Do you think your social media accounts create an echo chamber? How often do you engage with or read content produced by those with a different view than yours?