By Joshua Hooker
Edited by Wilbur Witt
In the midst of the recent underdog victory by President-elect Donald J. Trump, I am noticing, more than ever, the powerful effects of social media. Whether it is 100 plus comment feeds on political Facebook posts, or #notmypresident posts on Twitter, there has to be some meaning in all of this. Protests, arguments, household and friends list splits, there has to be a causation for these battlegrounds.
Speaking to my more experienced human specimens, that being those that have spent more time than me on Earth, I have found that the majority of them have never recognized such vast polarization of the American people. So, speaking of social media exposing us to opinions, facts, and rhetoric all around the spectrum of political importance, what do I see?
I see echo chambers. People liking, clicking, and selecting their news feed. People choose what they want to see, read, hear, and watch, but what is more important, I think, is that the texts that we participate with, blogs, groups, are limiting our exposure.
It is because of the advertisement targeting system or algorithm, in collaboration for free social media access, that feeds our feeds with things that we have related interest to. Just take a look at Facebook’s advertising targeting options for businesses. Just as when we shop for socks on Amazon, all of a sudden socks pop up as an advertisement on our Facebook feed. The same thing happens with what political ideology we search and participate with.
This phenomena creates an echo chamber of opinions supporting our own, thus, creating a library of references that support our beliefs, leaving individuals feeling informed on the topics, when in reality they are really “preaching to a huge internet choir!” The problem is that these texts that bounce off of our own beliefs are not in-depth evaluations, but merely easily consumable material. The trouble comes when people have to dig deep to find support for the opposing ideology’s perspective, and even their own.
Granted there is obviously opposing perspective within our social media fields, but the issue is that of vast polarization to the far left and right. Our feeds are fed by us. We manipulate and create our media diet. Looking at the fashion in which many of us consume social media, in a passive state of mind, many are not digging. With the average attention span of a blog reader being six hundred words or less, indeed, often only the title, which, if agreed upon, is quickly “shared” and becomes Internet “gospel.” Tommy Chong is NOT dead!
This stuff is not news! It is entertainment! In a consumer economy we don’t have time to continue to work once we have clocked out. We have to push the merchandise machine forward all day long, and are slap wore out by time we get to veg out and scroll through Facebook.
As many have observed, middle-class Americans are not experiencing any revolution in leisure time, so why would one expect that we go beyond our own opinionated confounds and seek partisanship and balance.
Our News Feed fills up with the sound of our own voice. Passive consumption of social media has created echo chambers that falsely tell us that we are right, and that the negative is negative. This now spills into the streets as protesters who can’t tell you the name of their senator attempt to nullify our election process. The echo chamber, combined with cyber exhaustion drives us away from this mental STD and thus, many have already discontinued reading this post. (Remember the six hundred word rule?)