The Small but Mighty Danger of Echo Chamber Extremism


One of many high issues with regards to the harms of social media and political polarization in the US is the worry of echo chambers or individuals working in media bubbles. If persons are solely listening to opinions they already agree with or seeing tales that align with their worldview, they might develop into extra entrenched of their beliefs, whether or not or not their beliefs replicate the true world. They could additionally develop into simpler to control and extra excessive.

Curiously, analysis largely reveals the overwhelming majority of individuals don’t inhabit completely sealed-off echo chambers. It’s been discovered that solely about 4 percent of individuals function in on-line echo chambers, and most people on Twitter, for instance, don’t comply with any political accounts. Basically, most individuals aren’t following politics, and lots of people who do are getting no less than somewhat bit of knowledge from totally different sides of the political spectrum. That mentioned, echo chambers and media bubbles are a difficulty as a result of they can radicalize individuals, negatively have an effect on the individuals who inhabit them, and warp the broader political panorama.

“The subset of the inhabitants that does devour hyper-partisan media and inhabit echo chambers on social platforms could be very consequential,” says Magdalena Wojcieszak, a professor of communication on the College of California, Davis. “They’re extra politically , extra participatory, extra strongly partisan, and extra polarized. Due to all these items, they’re extra probably to participate in politics.”

Wojcieszak says as a result of these persons are so politically concerned, they’ve a disproportionate affect on American politics. They’re typically the loudest voices within the room. She says people who find themselves politically energetic wish to have their views confirmed, to allow them to find yourself following accounts that align with their views and find yourself in echo chambers. Social media makes it simpler to seek out individuals who align with them politically, and algorithms typically feed them the content material they’re going to love. All of this could in the end result in individuals taking place rabbit holes and turning into extra politically excessive.

“It makes you extra excessive or polarized. It reinforces your attitudes. It additionally reinforces your sense of belonging to this group, and it reinforces your negativity and hostility towards different teams,” Wojcieszak says. “You suppose you’re the reliable one, the nice one, the virtuous one. The others are evil.”

Folks can begin to imagine they’re the one ones with the information and that the opposite facet is illegitimate. (Maybe you’ve seen this in an individual who paid tens of billions of {dollars} for a social media firm not way back.) Wojcieszak says the method of individuals turning into radicalized can begin with them having only a few political beliefs in frequent with those that are extra excessive than they’re. Having just a few stances that align with these excessive actors on-line might be the snare that pulls them into the rabbit gap.

“With the intention to enter that means of this particular person psychological and algorithmic affirmation, you do have to have some extent of susceptibility to some kind of narratives from the left or the fitting,” Wojcieszak says. “If there are some social or political points wherein you will have some views, that may begin the method.”

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