Confirmation Bias on Social Media

Before :

  • I didn’t mind who I followed on Twitter or added as a friend on Facebook.
  • If I don’t like some content or what some people are posting, I used to directly comment or condemn them or sometimes get into a debate.
My “Digital Personality” as understood by these social media engines / algorithms fine tunes my feed based on this.
It makes sure that everyday morning, along with my cup of tea, I’m served a fresh set of content to debate upon.

Of Late :

I realized that this was causing more harm because debating with blind believers using rational explanations normally doesn’t work. (Trump supporters on the other side of the globe or extreme nationalism & ridiculous nationalist religious fools on this side).

Since this was occupying more mental space and degrading my social media experience, I started making some changes.

  • I started un-following / pruning my social media network whenever I find somebody posting irksome content or something which gives me the urge or trigger go and start a debate.
  • I made sure that I follow people whom I respect / who’s opinions I value or connect with / who’s updates I’m looking forward to.
My “Digital Personality” created by the social media engines, fine tuned again to deliver content to me based on what I’m looking forward to.
Everyday, along with my cup of tea, I get served a fresh content of — Inspiring stories, People condemning crass ideologies, People posting about political beliefs which I agree on, Technology stuff, behavioral, productivity and habit related content.

Everything has been good so far, except as some of you might have rightly guessed, there’s a looming issue with this second approach.

You have started living in you’re own bubble.

Your self-created bubble, surrounding and protecting you from other “nasty” content or opinions.

Your self-created bubble, helping you navigate through the daily social media consumption, without any hazard or vitriol.

But wait. The title of this article is about Confirmation Bias. Where are we with that ?

The above self-created bubble is the pathway to Confirmation Bias.

Source : http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WT5lOQvuOpw/VB8Xi4ve1yI/AAAAAAAAAo4/V_Yu_z1l-ac/s1600/fallacies-mind.025.png

You might be thinking, if it helps me and protects my peace of mind and cleans up my feed on social media, what’s wrong with it ?

I’d say its dangerous to your Personal Growth.

It’s dangerous to Relationships.

It’s dangerous to Democracy.

If you’re somebody who’s not worried about any of the above three, this article ends here for you. Have a great day living in your bubble.


For the others, here’s the justification —

  1. Personal Growth
  • You grow as an individual if you are able to hold temporarily two opposing view points in your mind, analyze and learn from it.
  • Eg: Was Demonetization a success or failure ? If your political inclination has already created a bubble for you in which everywhere you see that it was a huge success/failure, you wouldn’t even be able to consider the opposing view and instead start shooting down any opposing views.
  • Because of this you have missed the opportunity to engage in discussions and debates which could have enabled you to learn about economy, growth etc.

2. Relationships

  • Debates with friends and family members may turn out sour because of point 1 above as well as the fact that you feel “everybody” around you agrees to your point ( Hey, my news feed is all about this) except for this moron in front of me, who doesn’t seem to get it through his thick skull.

3. Democracy

  • Tyrants and Dictators feed on this. How ? If you’re somebody who opposes the current government or disagrees with certain policies , you and people connected to your bubble “feels” that everybody is opposing this policy / corrupt person and hence there’s “something” going on. And hopefully, the “entire citizens” will come to know about this and that’ll be the end of this Tyranny or dictatorship.
  • The supporters of the dictator who are connected to their own bubble sees only the good news, the progress and (ahem, a sprinkle of fake news) here n there which helps them feed back into their confirmation bias loop. Resulting in more support for their leader and their policies.

All a clever leader has to do is to make sure :

  1. That each group lives in their own bubble and the bubble size of their supporters has enough majority for them to stay on power.
  2. Medias (who by the way, choose to stay or are forced to stay in their own bubble) remain the same and keep serving content appropriately.

So what’s the ideal scenario ?

It’s okay to live in the Confirmation Bias if it gives you peace and happiness. But, one has to step out of it “occasionally” to get a feel of whats it like to be on the other side of the bubble.

You might find things of horror, which reeks of power, corruption and bias OR you might end up finding new interest or people who you would have never met otherwise.

Either way, if we’re not conscious about who and what is controlling the information that’s fed to us, there’s a high chance we might eventually end up like this !

Source : http://www.dotdash.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/wall-e-humans.jpg

PS: I’m currently experimenting with Social Media De Addiction and has starting writing about it.

Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 is coming soon, which will contain more information about tools and practices I’ve been using which has helped me in this.