Beware of the Echo

Social media is great for connecting and exploring the world around us.

Surely, the best way to use it for information, rather than just entertainment, is to hear from all angles?

I have recently started using social media more. I love the writing community on Twitter, but the platform that I use the most is Instagram. I have a personal account and I have an account for this site. I like for everything to do with my site to be relevant to the content I am sharing. On my personal one, though, I am conscious of not developing tunnel vision. On social media, you can see any part of the world. You can learn any story and see any opinion from both sides of any argument. But that doesn’t happen automatically. I follow hashtags as much as people. I keep an eye on the quality and integrity of what I see but never the message. I limit how much hateful content I see but otherwise, there are no obvious themes to what, or who, I follow. Social media can easily keep you focused on what you already think. Your friends, their friends and even your favourite online personalities are a reflection of the circles you are already in. Everyone thinks differently but if everything you hear comes from similar sources, there is no way you can have an unbiased view on larger issues. That isn’t to say that we don’t see disagreements online – they’re everywhere. But on many issues, they are unbalanced. If most people mainly hear one side of an argument, which version will they be more likely to believe? And if most people argue for one side of a debate, then which side gets drowned out in a shouting match? Or a timeline?

We have to be able to take on information, fairly, from both sides of any issue.

The only way to do that is to intentionally cast your net as wide as possible. Look at the people you follow. If there isn’t enough variety in their content, their demographic, their interests, their political leanings and their backgrounds then how can you be getting a good view of the world around you? Is there anyone on the list that you often disagree with? There should be. Hear them out, understand their argument. You can decide if it is persuasive, informative, or unconvincing. We can be educated without changing our mind. Do you follow anyone you have very little in common with? It’s hard to have Empathy if you don’t see more of the human experience. If you can only relate to the world you live in, or the interests you have, how can you have opinions that take everyone into account? You might sometimes come across something that isn’t your cup of tea. But that doesn’t mean it cant add value to you, or expand the way you think.

From your timeline, to your explore page – even your DMs. You should see different people, different voices and different stories.

If you recognize the power of social media to learn, share, build, expand and affect change then then this is all valid. If you use social media to laugh, date and socialise with the groups you are already a part of then I can understand if none of this seems relevant. I am not dismissing that way of using of social media, at all. Connecting to our friends and family is the main reason most of us got an account. It’s always worth considering if, maybe, there is more you can get from your time online? Social media influences the way we think. That isn’t the worst thing in the world. But we have to be in control of what we see. A recurring theme on this site is our ability to react to changes in the future. The opinions we have, and the decisions we make, will be stronger when we are factoring in information from all sides. The echos in your own environment only reinforce what you already know and already think. It’s easy to be confident in something that is repeated all around you, but it is a dangerous platform to plan your actions from.

We can treat social media as an important resource or we can just act as a captive audience.

Two constants in the rise of social media have been the increase in content that we see and each platform’s desire to learn more and more about us in exchange for our free time. The next generation will spend more of their time, and connect and share more of their lives, online. They should celebrate the web’s ability to discover new and wonderful things. They should harness it’s power for Communication. Then they can improve their understanding of, and their impact on, the world they live in. They are likely to continue to have reasons to doubt or mistrust news and media, but the potential of the internet provides them with the opportunity to find their own truth. However, if they only see what they are used to seeing, or worse, what someone wants them to see, then the decisions they make for their own futures will be compromised.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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