The way that social media adjusts its algorithms can have a tremendous impact on the public debate.
The term “echo chamber” is already in common usage, describing how we self select into groups or channels of media consumption that reflect our own beliefs, reinforcing them, whether right or wrong, and filtering out any opposing views.
So to increase “engagement,” does that “outrage factory” Twitter only feed us more of what it thinks we already believe?
Does Youtube only show us more videos like the one we just watched and “liked?”
Does Facebook show Antifa more Antifa, and Proud Boys more Proud Boys?
The danger of social media, as well as 24 hour 700 channel cable is that it distorts our perception that our often niche, sometimes kook view of the world is some objective reality. An MSNBC junkie thinks “all reasonable people are democratic socialists” or a OneAmerica addict thinks that “our party and our politicians are ordained by God, thus we must ‘walk by faith’ and support them unconditionally.”
Do humanists see religious viewpoints (and vice versa)?
Do capitalists see socialist viewpoints?
Do Democrats see Republican viewpoints?
Remember, open-mindedness isn’t agreeing with the opposing viewpoint, but rather an openness to understanding it. This is an intellectual version of the emotional trait called empathy.
My fear is that net empathy, along with intelligence is decreasing, as we are fed artificial-intelligence driven iterations of ever narrower versions of what we want to hear: these new media organs, computer controlled (while the computers are programmed and controlled by flawed, biased, clueless humans) algorithms say “he likes that politician, give him more just like that! He likes that preacher, give him more just like that!
After all, it drives “engagement.”
Yeah. But what about critical thinking? Empathy? Compassion? The notion that you and your tribe just might not hold a monopoly on “truth?”
For all practical purposes, social media didn’t exist ten years ago. Only people in the future will be able to tell if this is as impactful to history as the Gutenberg press, or like CB Radio (A good portion of readers will have no idea what this even was!) something whose time had come–and gone.
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