Echo Chambers – The Concequence of a Customizable Online Feed

The advent of digitization and social media has allowed people to customize exactly what they see on their Twitter, Facebook, Reddit etc. front page and feeds. Inclusion does not exist without exclusion which creates a potentially problematic situation when it comes to tailoring what you are surrounded with online. Most people, myself included, exclusively subscribe to things online that they are interested in, line up with their beliefs, values, stances on socio-political issues, hobbies etc. and leave out the things they do not care for. The problematic part of this situation is that one essentially is surrounded by other people and sources of information that exist to confirm whatever you already believed from the start. There are few offering alternative perspectives, opinions and information. It creates the illusion that whatever you believe in is some sort of objective truth or the ‘best’ stance or opinion to have …since everyone else (supposedly) holds it too. If one only follows people on Twitter that are pro-choice in the abortion debate then naturally all of their opinions will seem perfectly logical and you’ll agree with them all the time. One wouldn’t see the opposite side of the debate and their reasoning for it, effectively just closing your eyes and covering your ears to anything that does not undoubtedly agree with your viewpoints. Of course, you could manually search up the hashtags and online personalities of opposing stances and learn their points, but really, how many people do that?

Reddit is most likely the best example of the ‘echo chamber’ phenomenon occurring in social media. While Facebook only has the ability to ‘react’ to comments and posts with various emojis to briefly represent your opinion, Reddit has a binary upvote/downvote system across the entire site, moderators that police comments according to a set of rules set by each subreddit (subforum) and awards such as silver, gold, platinum that can be bought for a comment. Comments that people like can be upvoted and the more it is upvoted, the higher up it rises. If a comment was posted an hour ago and has 1000 upvotes, it’ll be far above the comment that was posted 5 minutes ago and has 1 upvote. Naturally, the comments seen at the top due to upvotes will be further upvoted by those that find it funny, agree with what it says or upvote it for any other reason, while the comment posted 5 minutes ago will remain hidden to most people (assuming there are a significant amount of comments already). The worst part is that comments that are downvoted a certain amount are effectively ‘hidden’ by Reddit at the bottom of the page and require a manual click by users to read what was said. If you visit a subreddit dedicated to a certain political figure and their supporters and you offer an opposing view to one of their policies or flat out disagree with them, chances are you will be downvoted to the point of being hidden and perhaps even banned by moderators. Opposing views are hidden/silenced/removed while those that go with the flow are upvoted to the top and the cycle continues.

Of course, you can also just follow cute dog content, smile at your feed and go on about your day.

From the Facebook group “Dogspotting”