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The dangers of echo chambers

Social media networks such as Facebook or Twitter are the main source of news consumption for many teens across America. However, these platforms’ personalization algorithms (which display posts based on one’s digital interaction history) are now creating echo chambers, or dangerous virtual spaces in which similar ideas and opinions are “echoed” while contrasting perspectives are ignored.

A digital echo chamber can refer to a user’s personal news feed or an online group of likeminded individuals with the same stance on a certain topic. Either way, echo chambers amplify a person’s opinions regardless of factual accuracy and create an environment in which the general consensus is never questioned.

As a result, the dangers of echo chambers are clear: they only exacerbate a person’s affirmative bias and contribute to the prevalence and believability of “alternative facts”. Two people with their own separate echo chambers may very well come to two contrasting and factually incorrect beliefs about the same topic

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 83% percent of Facebook users scroll past controversial content in their feeds, while 27% are likely to unfriend or even block the source of this information. This trend causes Facebook to stop displaying ignored content, thus creating an echo chamber within each user’s news feed. After a while, the news that’s presented becomes extremely tailored, while credible and objective sources are often replaced by those that are more polar and oftentimes less accurate.

Our increasing reliance upon social media sites like Facebook for news and information contributes greatly to the spread of fake news and extreme polar political divisions. If this trend continues, existing partisan disagreement and conflict can only worsen. It is imperative that people look beyond digital echo chambers like Facebook and refer to less biased sources portraying multiple perspectives so as to form more educated opinions in the current sociopolitical climate.