In light of the recent election results and the shock that it has caused among many, much has been written about in recent days about the “echo chamber” that dominates our social media news channels these days. This phenomenon boils down to the fact that Facebook and other forms of Social Media optimize what is shown to users based on what they “like” and engage with, and as a result users end up seeing mostly (if not exclusively) the views and opinions that they like and agree with. Articles have been written about ways that Facebook, among others, can and should address this, and in many ways I support these ideas and others like them. But at the end of the day, regardless of what Facebook and others change or keep the same, we as individuals can and must also bear some of the responsibility for making the echo chambers so powerful. After all, the more responsibility we attribute to Facebook, the the less responsibility we take for ourselves. And the less power we grant ourselves in shaping our own media consumption, the less power we have to shape our own thoughts and the thoughts of those around us.
At the end of the day, it’s important that we escape the echo chamber regardless of what Facebook does or doesn’t do. For example, seeking out other sources of information through traditional news sites, or even better, talking to real people that have opposing or at least different views from ourselves
Furthermore, we should be cognizant of not sending out more noise into the echo chamber. Should we be surprised if strong or extreme views from other parties about ourselves are similarly amplified and taken at face value, regardless of facts or bigger picture considerations?
I know that this is a challenging time for many people. And the bigotry and hate that have been expressed in various forums and by various influential figures is wholly unacceptable. But at the end of the day, let’s not just blame the echo chambers and the other side. Let’s acknowledge that the echo chambers exist and not let them worsen the situation with our assistance. And let’s find ways to hear the other side, if for no other reason than because we want them to hear us.
Teddy Lee, Editor