Echo chambers prevent discussion and create hostility on social media

Gabriella Pinos/ Staff Writer 

The beauty of social media is its ability to connect us with diverse users from around the world.

Through it, we learn about different cultures, perspectives and lifestyles that we would’ve otherwise never been aware of.

So it’s a bit ironic that echo chambers have been a side effect of online platforms built to bring us together.

Echo chambers, or spaces where people are only exposed to opinions like their own, have emerged on social media since its inception.

While it’s common for people with similar mindsets to form online communities, it becomes problematic when its members refuse to hear the other side of the argument.

This is especially prominent in communities on Twitter that center around politics, according to a study conducted by Aalto University. An analysis of over 2.5 billion tweets from 2009 to 2016 showed a strong correlation between the political leaning of content produced and consumed.

In other words, people who post content with a political spin are more likely to be associated with users with similar stances.

The study also discusses “the price of bipartisanism,” which explains how bipartisan users are less likely to be heard compared to their partisan counterparts.

Even though neutral users attempt to bridge the divide between both sides, they’re overpowered by the small, loud communities they’re trying to reconcile.

It’s sad to see just how polarized Twitter – and the internet, for that matter – is when it comes to a matter of personal beliefs. The never-ending battle against opposing viewpoints shows that echo chambers don’t want to compromise, but to threaten and belittle the other side of the argument until it crumbles under pressure.

It’s an all-too-familiar scenario that we witness on our news feeds every day.

And like holding a mirror up to society, echo chambers show how aggressive we can become when someone challenges our political values.

One look at Twitter after the 2016 election is enough to realize just that. We’ve been incentivized to pick a side in the hopes of gaining an audience.

We surround ourselves with people who not only agree with our point of view but validate it without fact-checking or disputing it first.

Like sheep, some are quick to denounce facts and statistics because public figures tell them to do so.

And, if people are encouraged to criticize anything that contradicts their beliefs online, nothing stops them from doing so in workplaces, college campuses and even government institutions.

It seems that despite our best attempts at reconciliation, echo chambers continue to disrupt discussion and center issues around personal gain. Luckily, Twitter has taken notice of this phenomenon and is planning to do something about it.

In a blog post titled “Measuring Healthy Conversation,” the company acknowledges the misinformation spread on the site due to echo chambers, as well as the hostility created by them.

The post also announces that Twitter, with the help of university professors around the world, will examine how these communities are created and the challenges that arise as discussions develop.

It’s the first step toward creating an open dialogue between polarizing communities, something that is sorely needed in the internet’s current state.

And while it may be a slow battle for Twitter to combat these accounts, it’ll unify the platform for the greater good.

I don’t condemn anyone who surrounds themselves with like-minded people. Having support from those who share in your beliefs is one of the wonders of the internet.

But using emotions to fuel mob mentalities and aggression is the opposite of what social media was intended for.

A healthy community is one that comes together, and we must learn to get along before we tear each other apart.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash. 

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