Online echo chambers reinforce political beliefs



Opinion columnist Colin Horning discusses how the internet and social media can function as an echo chamber; a constant reinstatement of one's own political beliefs, and the importance of exposing yourself to other viewpoints.

COLIN HORNING, Opinion Columnist

Like most college students and people of my generation, I find myself spending a lot of time on the Internet. It’s fast, easy and keeps us constantly connected to everything current and new in the world.

We have access to instant news, entertainment, gossip, our friends and anything else that we have an interest in.

With the concept of smartphones, I never have to log off from my connection to information. For a news junkie like me, the Internet and smartphones are perhaps the greatest thing ever invented. Never before in the history of the world has humanity had this much access to this much information literally in the palm of your hand, and constantly being updated 24/7.

But with this constant flow of news and memes comes echo chambers, or having your beliefs reinforced by only paying attention to what you want to hear and disregarding information that might debunk or disagree with your current values.

We’re all guilty of it, whether on purpose or not. But when it comes to online discussion of politics, echo chambers really start to take shape. This is because the Internet makes it so incredibly easy to live in a bubble of ideas. We follow an account that we agree with politically, then another, then another, and before we know it our feeds are filled with 10 different like-minded accounts. While this is going on, we become completely shut off from the opposing side of the argument, which leads to difficulty understanding their point of view.

I for one tend to lean towards the more conservative/libertarian end of the political spectrum, so naturally my social media feeds are filled with conservative/libertarian accounts that share my same political views. The issue here (that I admit I’m somewhat guilty of) is sealing yourself off from the other side of the political spectrum that disagrees with you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, progressive, conservative, anarchist or communist, it can never be hurtful to expose yourself to views from all over the ideological sphere in politics. So if you’re a fellow right-winger like me, it’s okay to surround yourself with like-minded news outlets and ideas, but don’t be afraid to read some Huffington Post and watch CNN from time to time (you’ll survive, trust me).

Conversely, if you skew towards the liberal side on most issues, by all means pay attention to CNN and others, but try to expose yourself to Fox News, Breitbart, etc., even if what they say makes you want to yell at the TV.

In order to be completely informed citizens, we have to expose ourselves to ideas from all over, even (or especially) if we disagree with them. It may be difficult to do this, but only then can we be truly open-minded about issues that affect our daily lives, the country, and the world.