OPINION: The echo chamber is a problem we’re not paying enough attention to

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The Echo Chamber is a media theory that describes a situation where the only opinions someone hears are ones that they agree with. Over time, these opinions tend to become more and more extreme. This can lead to greater polarization in society as people who mostly only hear opinions they agree with will become uncomfortable and possibly argumentative when presented with an opposing view. 

Echo chambers affect what you see politically

Does this sound familiar? It should, for this is common on most social media sites. In order to keep users online and interested, social media companies want to filter their feed to show the user things the algorithm thinks the user will want to see. Naturally, this extends to politics too, and so the more political stories a user reads, the more stories with that same view will be filtered into a user’s feed. The more someone reads articles about a topic, the higher the chance the opinions they see start to become more one-sided and extreme. Echo chambers can also form in groups on social media where the members share a similar political viewpoint.  

Echo chambers cause the spread of fake news

But perhaps a more dangerous effect than polarization is an echo chamber’s ability to cause the quick spread of fake news or conspiracy theories. Once fake news or a conspiracy theory enters one of these echo chambers, people share the story with others who hold the exact same opinions as them and so then those people believe it too. This is how outlandish conspiracy theories get started.  

One in particular comes to mind, but it is so dumb and nonsensical I will spare you the name. Just know there is a real conspiracy out there that Donald Trump is being attacked by the “deep state”, which is the same group that has rigged the elections for every other president in history. Of course, the deep state and all the previous presidents, the theory goes, are part of a satanic cult. The fact that a significant amount of people can believe this shows how far the echo chamber can go to get people to believe something because the echo chamber slowly takes them there. This is not a problem that is widely reported on, however. 

Consider opposing arguments

In order to minimize the impact of echo chambers, I recommend you consider the arguments for the opposing viewpoint from time to time. Even just being aware of the echo chamber effect can help you combat its influence. If more people do not become more aware of the effects of the echo chamber, then I imagine it will only get worse.