The Echo Chamber Theory

The first time I truly paid attention to politics, out of my own choice, was the summer before my junior year of high school. At the time, first wave of the 2016 presidential candidates were announcing their bid for the presidency. I knew I could vote in the election, so I eagerly paid attention to all the news about their policies and options for the future. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was analyzing all the news I was seeing these policies through my liberal lens I had unknowingly had my whole life. I had grown up liberal and as a child had the idea that conservatives were “bad” because they were of a different opinion than me. Through education and meeting new people, I was able to expand my thoughts outside to encompass more than just what I believed in. While I have an open mind now to different ideological values, I’ve always wondered if there is a bias from people — millennials in particular — on how their political opinions affect how they view news, or if it was just something I did.

Politics are integrated everywhere in our society (source: https://i.imgflip.com/zy68m.jpg)

I wanted to investigate this question through looking at a more holistic picture of how news wraps up within millennials lives. I examined this issue from three parts: firstly, I compared it to other generation’s experiences, then I moved to seeing how growing up in the digital era of social media impacted millennial interest, and lastly how the millennial generation’s views are affected by their peer’s opinions.

A common problem that can arise within politics topics is people develop bias toward their own views. Once this happens, it can be hard to talk people out of what they think is right, because a lot of the time they don’t even want to hear it. They have a one minded, fixated idea about what is right and they won’t break that thought for anyone. This bias can come from family values, one’s surroundings, and the media. There are different variances to the media and how liberal or moderate their world views are, and they share information along these same ideology spectrums. If a conservative only pays attention to conservative news sources, they aren’t going to learn more about the topic that will broaden their mind outside of what they already know. Writer Alex Oliveria examines this phenomenon through the article “Yes, media bias does exist”, found on The Daily Campus online news organization, by taking a look at how news sources are much more left leaning in general. This is best described in a quote from the article that reads “In the same way that Hollywood has inherent left-wing tendencies, so too are liberals drawn to the profession of journalism”, showing how the biases stack up within the news organizations themselves. To learn more and grow, we need to look past what we already know to be educated about what we don’t.

I wanted to investigate this question through looking at a more holistic picture of how news wraps up within millennials lives. I examined this issue from three parts: firstly, I compared it to other generation’s experiences, then I moved to seeing how growing up in the digital era of social media impacted millennial interest, and lastly how the millennial generation’s views are affected by their peer’s opinions.

A common problem that can arise within politics topics is people develop bias toward their own views. Once this happens, it can be hard to talk people out of what they think is right, because a lot of the time they don’t even want to hear it. They have a one minded, fixated idea about what is right and they won’t break that thought for anyone. This bias can come from family values, one’s surroundings, and the media. There are different variances to the media and how liberal or moderate their world views are, and they share information along these same ideology spectrums. If a conservative only pays attention to conservative news sources, they aren’t going to learn more about the topic that will broaden their mind outside of what they already know. Writer Alex Oliveria examines this phenomenon through the article “Yes, media bias does exist”, found on The Daily Campus online news organization, by taking a look at how news sources are much more left leaning in general. This is best described in a quote from the article that reads “In the same way that Hollywood has inherent left-wing tendencies, so too are liberals drawn to the profession of journalism”, showing how the biases stack up within the news organizations themselves. To learn more and grow, we need to look past what we already know to be educated about what we don’t.

Media’s bias can be misdirecting in terms of learning more about world news, but people’s error can also affect how citizens view news. Often, especially with political headlines, people will see a soundbite or headline and, without reading the actual article, share the information with others. This creates a bubble of misinformation that can be shared through word of mouth and digital shares. Professors Arthur Lupia and Tasha S. Philpot of Political Science took on the question of how this comes about in the article published by The Journal of Politics entitled “Views from Inside the Net: how Websites affect Young Adults Political Interest.” They look at the overwhelming presence of the internet and cross examine how the newest generation gets their news from it. As quoted in the article, “The web’s potential as an instrument for increasing political interest comes from the fact that it allows people to post content that can be viewed all over the world on an ever-increasing array of devices.” Because the millennial generation is always connected to their smartphones and tablets, they have instant access to so much information. But often, they don’t know when it is correct and that’s their first big mistake in unintentionally creating bias.

How echo chambers are born (source: https://mi621.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/echo-chamber.png?w=471&h=280)

All these aspects come together to create when I am calling the “Echo Chamber Theory”. This theory shows that people’s political opinions can sometimes override their ability to listen and absorb new points of view. This theory suggests that people have to openly engage in debate and be open to learning new information to stop the echo chamber that comes from blind bias and parroting information. If everyone fact checked themselves before spouting what they first heard, it will make the transition of ideas easier and more accurate, helping to stop the bias that surrounds politics and educate for all points of view.

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