We are most readily influenced by our friends and acquaintances. Peer reviews and referrals are the strongest, most convincing form of marketing. According to a 2013 survey by Nielsen, 84% of consumers are apt to trust recommendations from friends and family over any other advertising avenue. Unsurprisingly, this effect trickles into political opinions as well. With platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, sharing every moment of our days, as well as disclosing every one of our opinions and stances, has become commonplace. These discussions keep us in a opinion bubble- they create an echo-chamber effect for 2 reasons.
Firstly, as humans, we have a significant desire to be correct. Cue the concept of the confirmation bias. This is our tendency to seek information that confirms our existing opinion, combined with an impressive ability to disregard any valid counterarguments. So, as we browse the internet with a passionate opinion regarding a certain topic, such as the Charlottesville white Nationalist supremacists, we might subconsciously assign more value to opinions that fit our perspective. This is also exemplified on sites such as Twitter, which are virtually “separated” into communities based on cultural identities. Members of certain communities, such as “Black Twitter”, tend to follow and interact with those who share their beliefs. This creates a phenomenon where their existing perspectives are organically confirmed by their network of like-minded individuals. This is especially apparent with socio-political issues, as the basis of Black Twitter.
Next, the personalization of social platforms such as Facebook and Google further act to segregate us by opinion. These sites collect analytics from every click and engagement, and use those to “optimize” and personalize our online experience. In other words, every time we make a google search, or comment a post that displays a certain viewpoint, these actions are recorded, and our suggested content and search results are then tailored to our liking based on our previous engagement. Any conflicting viewpoints or potentially perturbing information is hidden by the algorithm. Thus, we are continually exposed to content we already agree with.
The most significant consequence of these things is, based on our limited exposure to opposing stances, we think we are indefinitely correct. This is the echo-chamber of the internet. It causes us to think that our perspective is the only one. We fail to recognize that there are internet users just like us, who reach different conclusions and have different reactions to the world’s happenings. In an age where information is so readily relayed, it’s a pity to live in a internet-imposed bubble.