Social Media Drowning Diverging Opinion On Our News Feed By Tweaking Algorithms
With our world revolving around the Internet, it is a great platform for organizations and social causes to let their voice reach millions of people. However, when it comes to people’s participation, there is comparatively little trace of their active involvement – digitally.
Politics is one unit of our social life that is affected the most by social media. Apparently, our friendships base on our digital activities as well now, because people are most likely to refrain from voicing their opinion about affairs which a friend might not agree with wholeheartedly. This dilemma is referred to as “Spiral of Silence.”
A research was conducted by Pew Research Center and Rutgers University to study the effect of Internet which concluded that social media users were more inclined towards not discussing politics and expressing their views in person. Rather, the Internet facilitates people by highlighting the posts from people who have similar views to theirs by applying algorithms at the back end.
This makes the people more expressive on one hand, but enhances their reluctance to voice different opinion, if any.
Keith N. Hampton, an author of the study, remarked:
People who use social media are finding new ways to engage politically, but there’s a big difference between political participation and deliberation. People are less likely to express opinions and to be exposed to the other side, and that’s exposure we’d like to see in a democracy.
Though the research was actually intended to see the effects of the Internet, the researchers eventually realized it was the same as our real world. People will usually make friends with people who have the same mindset as theirs, and will avoid situations that would require them to voice out their divergent opinion to not get into heated debates.
Now with the Internet also customizing the content on our News Feeds according to our opinion, the hesitance has deepened even further, where people will find solace in talking to like minded users. Last week, Twitter was found showing tweets from people who we don’t even follow, but have the same opinions as ours. Facebook went on to comment that it is planning on hiding posts from people’s News Feeds with specific headlines.
Moreover, cyber bullies who will attack people with diverging opinions are become a nuisance for social media users. Majority of the people who were surveyed in this study said they would prefer discussing government issues with family or friends in person, in lieu of Twitter and Facebook.
If Facebook assured users that their Facebook friends agreed with their stance, they were 1.9 times more likely to join a discussion there. And for any intense or heated topics, the users were 2.4 times more likely to comment on a post about it on Facebook.
Fun fact: the research found that less educated people would prefer giving their views on Facebook, whereas users with higher education were going to avoid it on social platforms and indulge in discussions at home instead.