Social Media: Polarization from Homophily.

Homophily in Social Media

In my last post I talked about our tendencies to gravitate towards others who share our beliefs and ideals. This phenomenon, known as homophily, is right at home in modern social media. Most social media outlets even add fuel to the fire by employing algorithms that push contacts and content aligned with our own interests.

Polarization and Isolation

To make matters worse, social media sites also track dislikes. So in addition to receiving an overwhelming amount of like-minded content, opposing views or content is generally omitted. This can isolate us in our ability to see other points of view. Our own biases are confirmed in this fashion and our natural impulse to believe based on emotion is reinforced (Levine, 2016). Furthermore, the rate at which these confirmations are made is greatly increased in a world with social media. In the past one would have to leave the news on 24/7 to compete with the exposure to controversial topics we receive through social media (Hreha, n.d.).

Building Bridges to Open Minds

The mix of inherent biases fed by social media algorithms has created a truly polarized and volatile landscape of isolated viewpoints. We are all in danger of following this trend and maintaining a mindset unclouded by bias is not easy. It has become our duty, all of us, to take any information we come across with a grain of salt. Fight down that intense knee-jerk reaction and employ a little critical thinking. Try to view content through the eyes of others, check the source for credibility and maintain curiosity. Use your skepticism as a tool for truth seeking rather than a wall to protect your own bias.

References:

Hreha, J. (n.d.) How Social Media is Polarizing Us. Retrieved from http://bigthink.com/wikimind/youre-being-polarized-how-social-media-strengthens-your-beliefs-good-bad

Levine, S. (2016, Jul 14). Psychological and Political Polarization Are Toxic. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-emotional-footprint/201607/psychological-and-political-polarization-are-toxic

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