The internet and social media have become such a massive part of our daily lives. Sometimes we forget that there are multiple contributing factors determining what information we see and hear.
No one is operating from the same base of information. There is no perfect “shared reality.” You might be surprised to find out that every move you make on the internet determines the future information you are exposed to. An overwhelming amount of the things you see and hear are personalized, thanks to algorithms.
On a more conscious level, we create our own realities by carefully selecting who we follow and what information we interact with. The result is usually an echo chamber of like-minded people. While this may feel comfortable, not being exposed to alternative ideas can have a negative effect.
Social media gives you a false sense of trust and security.
- You no longer solely rely on traditional media for information; social media is now a primary source of information. Social media merges news and opinions without clear labels as to which is which.
- Social media, filter bubbles and echo chambers contribute to a feeling of tribalism, which does not support open-mindedness.
- Information from verified accounts or persons you trust isn’t always accurate. Those verified accounts and people are human, and might be sharing without fact-checking.
A note on Algorithms:
Algorithms aren’t always bad. There are times when internet personalization is helpful, like when you are trying to choose a local restaurant or plan a vacation.
Other times this sneaky curation of preferences can feel intrusive. If you are not paying attention, you risk letting tech companies shape your reality.
Try different search engines:
Search something on Google (a website that tracks ALL your data) and then search the same thing on DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo does not track your data or search history and, therefore, shows everyone the same results.
Another fun experiment is to search something on Google and compare results between you and someone who has different opinions on a specific topic. See how the two sets of results differ.
Filter Bubbles are not just online:
By surrounding yourself with like-minded people, you create your own real-life filter bubbles. These real-life filter bubbles often have the same effect as ones in the online world. You become too set in your ways and hesitant to consider other points of view or empathize with anyone else.
For more information on Filter Bubbles, check out Eli Pariser’s TED Talk.
We challenge you to take the time to TALK (I know, scary!) to people in real life that have different opinions than you. For tips on this, check out our page on Civil Discussion.
**Remember, we’re striving for progress, not perfection! Exposing yourself to other ideas can be uncomfortable at first, but worth it in the end. Think of it this way: in exposing yourself to other ideas, you’ll be better prepared to stand by your convictions when faced with adversity.**
If you would like to learn more about social media, check out some of these great organizations:
CyberWise & CyberCivics help students develop the life skills they need to become safe and wise citizens of a digital world. These skills are best taught in the classroom, face-to-face (media literacy experts agree the most important skills are social and behavioral skills!). That's how youth negotiate the social norms they take into their digital spaces.
Be Internet Awesome is helping kids be safe, confident explorers of the online world. To make the most of the Internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Be Internet Awesome teaches kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.
#ICANHELP educates and empowers students to use social media positively. To date, #ICANHELP has worked with students to take down over 800 pages dealing with harassment, impersonation, bullying, and more. We work closely with schools in training students on how to respond to cyber issues.
The iKeepSafe mission is to provide a safe digital landscape for children, schools, and families by supporting the protection of student privacy, while advancing learning in a digital culture. To support this mission, we provide data privacy certifications to technology companies, educational resources to schools, and information to the community.
Social Media in our everyday lives:
Share your story and let us know what Social Media means to you! Social Media means something a little bit different to everyone. We look forward to reading about your experiences and feelings about social media and will be picking our favorites to feature here!
Tell us your story!
Lee Rainie and Maeve Duggan, “5. Scenario: Auto insurance discounts and monitoring,” Pew Research Center, January 14, 2016, https://www.pewinternet.org/2016/01/14/scenario-auto-insurance-discounts-and-monitoring/
“LibGuides: Keepin’ It Real: Tips & Strategies for Evaluating Fake News: Filter Bubble.” Filter Bubble – Keepin’ It Real: Tips & Strategies for Evaluating Fake News – LibGuides at Loyola Marymount University, https://libguides.lmu.edu/fakenews/FilterBubble.