Social Media: The echo-chamber which is threatening democracy…

Brexit. I’ve remained fairly silent in the aftermath of what will likely be (and is indeed already becoming) a fundamental change in the UK’s position both economically and politically on the global stage. But this is not a rant on the outcome, nor a insight into the failed debates which existed from both sides. No, this is my rant about something much bigger, something which was highlighted during the leave/remain campaign, but was merely symptomatic of the scenario.

As we have found ourselves ever increasingly using our social estates as news sources, and relying on our peers to be our primary filters, we are also increasingly narrowed in our visibility of the wider debate. This extends far beyond Brexit, this extends to global events at every level. As we become more self aware and ever more self conscious, more concerned for the image we portray to the world than the images the world has to share with us, we ultimately spend more time on those social channels surrounded by the ‘news’ curated for us.

This distilled view is the problem.

By finding ourselves immersed in this “social news” system, we have immediately narrowed our perspectives to those shared by our connections, with whom we are linked because of our inherent similarities and often views. This systemic approach ultimately means we are lured into a dangerous scenario whereby we each have our beliefs reinforced and become further detached from others’ points of view, seeing them as a minority who are clearly miss-informed.

This was never more evident to me than in the lead up to Brexit, where based on my Facebook feed, news sharing and curated media, the outcome could only be that we would remain. It was only by wanting to examine the flip-side that I was exposed the opposing campaign and media, something which had I not taken action to do, would have been nigh-on invisible.

With social media, we have been able to ‘connect’ with more people, but in doing so, we have actually narrowed our ‘global’ view, we have created an ever widening divide between people where thoughts, opinions and views differ. As individuals we are only partly to blame, Facebook has (with it’s clever little algorithm) thrown fuel on the fire by prioritising content from those with whom we engage with most, and by logical deduction, those with whom we share most in common…

I realise using Facebook as our news source is a failing and a terrible way to perceive the world. But as a younger generation grow up in a world where their connections and content are key, I fear the desire to look beyond these familiar and trusted ‘comfort zones’ will only decline. For them, I believe this distilled ‘news’ will become the norm, separation will grow, cultural divides will increase and the playground cliques we grew out of will become the real life worlds in which we one day find ourselves; blissfully ignorant to the reality, so long as our beliefs are reinforced by our closest peers.

Currently my Facebook feed would suggest that there is categorically no way Trump will be president…I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

Written by Felix Hemsley – Senior Account Director