While scouring social media in recent weeks regarding various events that have occurred, from the Gillette commercial to the government shutdown, one thing became clear: perspective is key.
The latest video that has garnered mass media attention was of an incident between a group of high school students wearing “MAGA” hats and a Native American veteran. Reactions from various major media outlets were based on left-winged sources siding with the veteran, right-winged sources siding with the group of high school students and libertarians alleging the cameras were too close to capture the entire situation.
My point is not to argue who was right or wrong, but to show the simplicity of how an event may be blown into multiple perspectives. The broad number of sources that I follow across the political spectrum allows me to see multiple lenses of the same situation.
Why does this matter? Compared to the event which may have garnered a few hundred people in person, millions of individuals online either watched the videos, read the headlines or argued in the comment sections of timelines that are individualized and tailored to them through an algorithm.
What am I saying? Various social media platforms are set up with algorithms that are manipulated based on reactions: who you associate with, the page you like or follow, but most importantly, your social profile. This social profile, which sometimes follows you across the internet, is your assumed demographic.
Research from the 2014 Media Psychology Journal found that people were more likely to click and interact with media correlated to their political ideas rather than of differing opinions. This creates a domino effect shaping your “social profile” and creates an echo chamber in millions of people’s lives.
An echo chamber is like a bubble in which people embrace beliefs that coincide with their own. This is also reinforced by people’s connections with friends of similar opinions who also, for a lot of social media users, post articles and content that they are more likely to interact with.
Am I arguing that algorithms are inherently wrong and could be a tool of manipulation? No, simply because these corporations may have missions or ideologies but have to make a profit to encourage further use of platforms, or they will not survive.
In the real world, or on the Internet, we should all engage in conversation and consume information that we may not necessarily disagree with because of our social capital in our communities.