Invasion of the Brexit Body Snatchers

There is a certain kind of metaphor doing the rounds within Remain voters to describe their shock at Thursday’s Brexit decision.

One friend likened waking up on Friday morning to finding their home had been burgled. A feeling of violation, of people you don’t know rifling through the things you hold dear. Others spoke of living in a ‘dystopian novel’. I listened to Sheffield’s young people interviewed on the radio, and one woman said she felt like she was in a real-life version of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.

All of this amounts to an alienation from the people that surround us, a sense that benign neighbours are actually dark imposters.

The problem is they were there all the time. We just never listened to them.

We’ve been living in what Suzanne Moore calls a digital ‘echo chamber’ in which our every opinion is reflected back at us by the mass of people we’ve chosen to friend, follow and like.

It’s easy to think that social media means we immerse ourselves in the opinions and interests of a broad range, people who we’d never usually come across. But our tendency towards cultural homophily denies this. We’re more likely to follow likeminded people.

Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, shows it’s not just social media. Google, Yahoo and Amazon use algorithms to personalise web searches and content, and the side-effect is our assumption that what we consume is broadcast when it’s actually narrowcast.

Everything is validated, nothing is challenged.

Which is why those in the Remain camp woke up on Friday shocked and alienated from their country, surrounded by ‘Brexit Body Snatchers'.

We all need to break out of the Echo Chamber. We should follow people who annoy us, seek out difference and listen to challenge. Our social media world might not be as cosy, but at least we will be out of the Echo Chamber, listening and engaging and ready to build bridges rather than walls.

Disagree with all of this? Follow me on Twitter @annieauerbach

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