Is social media polarising society?

Today we find ourselves to be more rigid versions of our former selves
Think about it: 1.49 billion people on average log onto Facebook daily; every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter; and since its inception, over 40 billion photographs have been posted on Instagram. We live in a world where we aren’t only consumers of information but creators as well, which gives us a misplaced sense of control. It is misplaced because we live today on social media in filter bubbles and echo chambers, and our experiences are dictated by algorithms. As we approach the end of the second decade of this century, social media and the Internet have drifted from their promise of closing distances and exposing us to the views of those who existed beyond our personal networks.

Instead, we find ourselves to be more rigid versions of our former selves. A study carried out by Aalto University, Finland, this year on increasing polarisation on social media found that factors like user homophily (users in a social system tend to bond more with ones who are similar to them than to ones who are dissimilar) and algorithmic filtering have created this cycle of enforcing and reinforcing belief systems and ensuring that we don’t open our minds to diverse opinions. The study suggests that algorithms must be created to identify trigger topics and find diverse opinions that might otherwise be kept out.

While the democratisation of discourse that social media has brought about is undeniable and most welcome, we are getting trapped in narrower world views that are seeping into not only voter behaviour but everyday personal interactions. This is something we must be alarmed about. Log in or log out, the world is a far more opinionated place today but it need not be a rigid one.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/is-social-media-polarising-society/article25684211.ece

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