New Research Says Social Media Can Make People Narrow-mindedBy Chris Brandt, UniversityHerald Reporter
With the Internet and the social media, the world has become smaller and closer. More so, information has become readily available and accessible. However, a recent study by a team of researchers revealed that social media can, in fact, cause people to become more narrow-minded.
Just like any other thing in this world, social media has a dark side. According to a recent study called "The spreading of misinformation online" said that it can create polarized communities because they developed the same content consumption pattern.
The study explains that social media is now awash with user-provided content, a lot of which are unverified rumors or just personal opinions not based on logic or fact. Most of these user-provided content has two distinct narratives - scientific news and conspiracy theories. It added that selective exposure to such content will create homogeneous clusters or echo chambers which diffuse the same content while ignoring the rest. Thus, even if the information is wrong, a homogeneous group will still consume and share it.
Alessandro Bessi, the co-author of the study and a post-doctoral with the Information Science Institute at the University of Southern California, said that their main objective for the study was about how fake new proliferates in the World Wide Web after the World New Forum listed digital misinformation as one of the main threats to the society today.
As they analyzed this phenomena, they also discovered that scientific news and conspiracy theories drew a lot of attention with communities built around them to discuss related topics around these subjects. Bessi explained that the reason for this is confirmation bias - people's tendency to confirm their pre-existing beliefs to prove that it is true. Because of this, they tend to block out any information, no matter how strong the facts are, that does not agree with their beliefs.
He also cautions that all people are subject to confirmation bias although there are different degrees how deep the bias goes. This becomes even stronger if a person receives that information from someone they trust or close to them who shares their beliefs. Then, information is shared without really examining how legitimate it is or not.