Feeling stuck in your social media bubble?

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Now the KIND Foundation is trying to bring more diversity to Facebook feeds — so people can try to understand each other better. Its “Pop Your Bubble” tool, …matches Facebook users with at least 10 people who have a different political perspective, and who live in another part of the country or represent a different generation.

The tool is one of several that have appeared in recent months to help social media users become more exposed to other perspectives. Flip Feed, a chrome extension designed my MIT researchers, allows people to see what a Twitter feed looks like for someone with different political leanings. And Escape your Bubble, also a Chrome extension, inserts posts in your Facebook feed with a news article representing a differing political perspective. The posts are deliberately upbeat and friendly, intended to contrast with the way opposing viewpoints often are presented on-line, via argumentative comments.

Breaking Up With Twitter

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Historians and media theorists will one day study whether the journalistic corps’s devotion to a platform that prizes cutting remarks over nuance and empathy was ultimately good for the republic. But for news addicts like myself, little of that mattered.

The thrill of Twitter in 2016 was visceral and habit-forming. It was the show that never stopped, the fireworks display you couldn’t keep your eyes off even as it grew dangerously bright and transfixing, and then set the whole town on fire and invited floods and locusts and plague, too.

But what now? As a business, Twitter had not been having a good run before the presidential election reached its spectacular conclusion. New users aren’t joining the service and longtime denizens have been using it less. When Twitter tried to sell itself this fall, nobody wanted to buy it.

Both potential users and would-be acquirers seem turned off by its complexity, its ugliness (Twitter has become a haven for misogynists, racists and other trolls), and most deeply its apparent uselessness for people who aren’t clustered in the bubbles of tech, politics and media.

 

Filter Bubbles Are Real And We All Live In One

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…I found myself grieving, and not just because Trump won. I grieved for the fact that my information streams — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — gave me false hope and a false sense of comfort that she would win. And they had, for months. All day, because it was Election Day, I checked in and saw friends posting voting selfies, sneaking ballot photos at their polling sites, talking about the privilege of voting in our democracy, of photos of Hillary over her career in politics paired with inspiration quotes. I saw Susan B. Anthony and the suffragettes, babies in The Future Is Female T-shirts, feminist fathers embracing their daughters and promising them tomorrow a woman would lead the free world, and hopeful messages of triumph over misogyny, racism, ignorance and hate. I saw 100% Hillary. Or at least 99%.

How did this happen?

…For this, I ask: What about the responsibility of the platforms that serve up that media and that information? There are 1.79 billion people on Facebook, 317 million people on Twitter, and over 500 million people on Instagram. These platforms are global communities offering a chance for diverse people from all over the world, at all socioeconomic tiers, holding political views on all parts of the spectrum, to engage with one another. This is a profound opportunity to allow people with disparate opinions to connect and communicate, to dialogue in public.

…Let us hold the technology we use responsible, and ask the people who make decisions about these communities (looking at you: Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Williams!) to see the social responsibility of enabling dialogue between people with views and opinions that are different from ours. Platforms are a means to develop diverse communities, more empathy and experience a more holistic picture of the national and global dialogue, so we can take action accordingly.

 

‘The end of Trump’: how Facebook deepens millennials’ confirmation bias

Six out of every ten millennials (61%) get their political news on Facebook, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center.

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For millennials who have never known an election without Facebook, the political landscape of the social media network has massive implications for the upcoming contest between Hillary Clinton and Trump – not least of which because of Facebook’s outsized influence on their exposure to political news.

Six out of every 10 millennials (61%) get their political news on Facebook, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, making the 1.7 billion-user social behemoth (which includes more than 200 million in the United States) the largest millennial marketplace for news and ideas in the world. But within Facebook’s ecosystem exists a warren of walled gardens, intellectual biomes created by users whose interest in interacting with opposing political views – and those who are them – is nearly nonexistent.

“Baby boomers are the most likely to see political content on Facebook that supports their own views,” said Amy Mitchell, the director of journalism research at Pew Research Center. “Thirty-one percent of baby boomers on Facebook who pay attention to political posts say the posts they see are mostly or always in line with their own views, higher than both Gen Xers and millennials.”

But baby boomers are the least likely to get their political news from Facebook – unlike millennials.

 

How technology disrupted the truth

This entire article is a really great read, I wanted to excerpt the whole thing, but here is a quick sample:

“It’s up to other people to decide whether they give it any credibility or not,” she concluded. This was not, of course, the first time that outlandish claims were published on the basis of flimsy evidence, but this was an unusually brazen defence. It seemed that journalists were no longer required to believe their own stories to be true, nor, apparently, did they need to provide evidence. Instead it was up to the reader – who does not even know the identity of the source – to make up their own mind. But based on what? Gut instinct, intuition, mood? Does the truth matter any more?

… “If a person is not sharing a news story, it is, at its core, not news.”

The increasing prevalence of this approach suggests that we are in the midst of a fundamental change in the values of journalism – a consumerist shift. Instead of strengthening social bonds, or creating an informed public, or the idea of news as a civic good, a democratic necessity, it creates gangs, which spread instant falsehoods that fit their views, reinforcing each other’s beliefs, driving each other deeper into shared opinions, rather than established facts.

But the trouble is that the business model of most digital news organisations is based around clicks. News media around the world has reached a fever-pitch of frenzied binge-publishing, in order to scrape up digital advertising’s pennies and cents. (And there’s not much advertising to be got: in the first quarter of 2016, 85 cents of every new dollar spent in the US on online advertising went to Google and Facebook. That used to go to news publishers.)

In the news feed on your phone, all stories look the same – whether they come from a credible source or not.

 

The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb

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In psychology, the idea that everyone is like us is called the “false-consensus bias.” This bias often manifests itself when we see TV ratings (“Who the hell are all these people that watch NCIS?”) or in politics (“Everyone I know is for stricter gun control! Who are these backwards rubes that disagree?!”) or polls (“Who are these people voting for Ben Carson?”).

 

Online it means we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy “Other Side” that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t “get it,” and is clearly not as intelligent as “us.” But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.

 

What is emerging is the worst kind of echo chamber, one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view, that their ranks are growing when they aren’t. It’s like clockwork: an event happens and then your social media circle is shocked when a non-social media peer group public reacts to news in an unexpected way. They then mock the Other Side for being “out of touch” or “dumb.”

What happens instead of genuine intellectual curiosity is the sharing of Slate or Onion or Fox News or Red State links. Sites that exist almost solely to produce content to be shared so friends can pat each other on the back and mock the Other Side. Look at the Other Side! So dumb and unable to see this the way I do!

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

Your social networks discourage you from speaking out on politics

I'm not speaking

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The internet is supposed to be a bastion of self-expression, where you’re free to speak your mind knowing that someone, somewhere shares your feelings. However, Pew Research and Rutgers University have published a study showing that many social network users feel compelled to keep their mouths shut on sensitive topics.