Political Post #1 – Echo Chambers and how to stay out of them

I had planned to wake up November 9 and make a post on Facebook along the lines of “If you were surprised about the results of the election, you might be living in an echo chamber.”

Then I woke up November 9.

And I had been surprised about the results of the election.

…(So thank God I didn’t confidently make that post before the election – I don’t like the taste of crow or humble pie.

But here’s the thing: I do not live in an echo chamber. I go to great lengths to make sure I don’t. I know most of my friends lean left, so I know I’m in danger of creating a Facebook environment where I only hear thoughts I agree with. I’m aware of the danger, and I actively try to avoid it.

Check your news sources.

I get my news from a variety of sources and I make a point of avoiding news from biased sources.* The exception to that is if I don’t understand a particular reaction from one side or another, in which case I will seek out those biased news sources because I know they’ll explain the offense to me. For instance, some time ago, a lot of my friends on the right were clearly furious about a new bill. But it seemed like a perfectly reasonable bill to me and I just could not understand why they were all so mad. So, I went to FoxNews.com and rather quickly understood what the problem was (I don’t recall what the bill was, so I can’t recall what the problem was. Big government, maybe?)

*I know a lot of people will argue that all media is biased. I’ve had that argument sooooooo many times! But some news is deliberately biased – Fox News, breitbart.com, infowars.com, Drudge Report, Huffpo, Politico, MSNBC, et al, while other news attempts to be neutral and unbiased. Seek out neutral news sources.

However, even for the most neutral news media, news is now profit driven, so their editorial decisions are slanted towards what will get the most viewer/hits. Which can definitely create the appearance of bias.

Don’t prune your friends list

I make a point of not silencing people with different political views from me. I have a lot of friends across the political spectrum and I like it that way. My only rule, oft repeated is, “Don’t be an asshole.” As long as people who disagree with me can discuss that in a civil fashion, we can be friends. More than once I’ve asked the people who do agree with me to settle down. It happens.

PS – several my friends have done exactly this after the election – unfriending/unfollowing anyone who voted a certain way. It’s your Facebook, you can do whatever you want with it. I can certainly understand the appeal of being surrounded by like-minded folk.

I’m just talking to people who don’t want an echo chamber. At least one of my friends said explicitly that they did want an echo chamber. That’s cool, I’m not judging you.

Check the sources.

When I see a news story that seems too good to be true (or too bad to be true), I research it. I check a lot of different news sources. And if the only sources for that news are highly biased, I’m a lot less likely to pay attention to that particular bit of news. Beware – BEWARE – of the plethora of fake news sites that make up purest BS and send it out into the world to garner clicks.

Don’t be too quick to hide pages you don’t like.

I do occasionally block posts from certain pages on Facebook. I hold pages subject to the “Don’t be an asshole” rule. As long as you’re not an asshole, you can post memes I don’t agree with. If you are an asshole, you can still post them, I just won’t see them.

 

 

Even with all these efforts to avoid an echo chamber, I was still surprised about the results of the election.

 

It doesn’t help if the media is wrong. I was surprised about the results because even Fox said Trump was losing. The far-right media was still insisting that everything was rigged. Even project 538 – which has been uncannily accurate the last two elections, was way, way off this election. I think rather than biased media or any kind of echo chamber, we were seeing sort of a Bradley Effect . I think people were ashamed to admit they were planning to vote Trump, and therefore lied to pollsters (I could ask why you would vote for someone who was so awful you were ashamed to admit it, but that’s another topic). I think a lot of people who said they were for Clinton didn’t show up to vote while most of those enthusiastic for Trump did show up to vote.

 

At any rate, I encourage everyone, righties or lefties, to venture out of their comfortable bubble filled with people who think just like you. For one thing, it’s never a bad idea to understand others. People are still people, even if they have different views than you.

Try to get your news from neutral media. Go to Google if something seems too good to be true. And try to remember that we’re all people, and most of us believe that what we want for the country is what’s best for the country.

And, if you’re thinking of  adopting the “Don’t be an asshole,” rule, I can tell you that a chamber which does not echo with the sounds of assholes is a nice place to live.

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One thought on “Political Post #1 – Echo Chambers and how to stay out of them

  1. I think my rules of what it means to be an asshole are different. I unfriended, unfollwed, and blocked a lot of people. I don’t mind a difference in political leanings. A very outspoken libertarian is still on my friendslist and I’ve of my favorite people to talk to.

    But if a person’s political beliefs are that some people don’t deserve agency or basics rights, I feel like that’s an asshole thing to do. Same with dismissing the gears of someone when you probably have nothing to lose.

    Also, I just can’t. Like, I can’t help trying to talk to people. I want to understand and I want them to understand and I just can’t keep doing that on the internet. I have to spend time elsewhere.

    But I think I’m the one you’re talking about that specifically wanted an echo chamber. 😛

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