Living in the political bubble of social media

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Credit: Rival IQ

Oh no, I hear you cry. This is going to be another article about Donald Trump, isn’t it? Well, yes it is, I reply, but only a little bit – I promise. Bear with me.

You see, when I woke up on that fateful Wednesday morning to the news that Trump was the president of the world’s most important country, I was utterly gobsmacked. I didn’t understand how it could have happened. It exactly was the same with Brexit, and the General Election in 2015. Nobody I knew supported these people, so who exactly was voting for them? And therein lies our problem.

In each of these cases a lot of people were shocked by the outcome of these political events because they believed that they were a part of the majority. Except by definition they were not. They were unwittingly misled by the very thing they use to educate themselves on political happenings. And that is social media.

We like to use social media because it gives us easily digestible information in bite-size chunks. We then use this to inform and influence our own opinions. This method of receiving political knowledge makes us believe that we are being exposed to a wide range of ideas and beliefs. However, this is not the case.

Each of our social media platforms is actually a carefully constructed echo chamber. We grow and cultivate our Facebook and our Twitter, weeding out those we don’t agree with until we have our own perfect utopian bubble. And we don’t even realise we’re doing it. The wide range of people we follow means that we are fooling ourselves by thinking we have balanced social media spheres. But no matter the different people, cultures and ages on our timeline, we are still only seeing a tiny window on our world.

We’ve all been guilty of quietly unfriending those whose political beliefs don’t quite tally up with our own – especially if they are keen on expressing them. I know I have done this in the past. After all, nobody likes to be bombarded with thoughts that make us angry, sad or scared – we already get enough of that through the mainstream media.

Unfortunately, by cutting these beliefs out of our media consumption we are limiting our exposure to new and progressive ideas. After all, what is even the point in opinions if we do not allow ourselves to learn and change our minds every so often? Having the full spectrum of political ideas on your newsfeed will help you to broaden your horizons – even if it does occasionally make you squirm.

We can’t spend out whole lives in our own political bubbles. It’s time to be brave and burst them. That way we will find out more about ourselves and the ideas of our fellow people – and not be so surprised next time an election comes around. You may not decide that The Donald is actually a saint (ew), but it’s important to be open to new ideas – even if it just helps you understand people that little bit more.

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