The Echo Chamber and How People Use Headlines to Define Their Narratives

A few weeks ago, I posted an article about how certain individuals benefited from the Trump campaign. It was neither an endorsement nor denouncement of Trump, just an observation I wanted to share with my readers. After looking at the Facebook comments below the post, it became apparent that a substantial amount of people did not click on it. A week later I wrote another article titled Gamechanger: The Speech Hillary Needs To Make Tonight which was intended to be a critique of the American Political System while mocking how much of an insider Clinton is. Again, it was clear that people did not take the time to read the piece.

Noticing a trend with the blog posts I authored, it soon reminded me of several articles I have read in the past. According to a study, 59% of stories that are retweeted by people who never actually read them. Furthermore, 68% of people in another study said that they share stories only to reinforce their identity. This ignorant reverberation of articles creates an echo chamber that engulfs social media, and what compounds this effect even more so are algorithms these platforms utilize to show more of the pages that are in line with our views.

These statistics have serious consequences about how we receive our information. By sharing posts that do not have the proper verification, people may be spreading misinformation without realizing it. Furthermore, humans are flawed and are capable of living complete delusions; by seeing a post that has no basis in reality, it will only confirm those misbeliefs.

What sharing headlines on our social media profiles ultimately does is fortifies our own personal narratives. According to Arthur Dorbin, in a world of chaos, we like to organize our lives into stories:

Stories provide a major way of understanding your place in the scheme of things by providing you with a sense of belonging and helping establish your identity. You understand your connections to the past, your links to the present and the possibilities of the future.

The narratives we have of ourselves provides us with a lens to view reality. Our families lessons, surrounding environment, and defining life events all play a role in constructing our own personal story. Yet today there is an entirely new variable; the virtual world of the internet affects us through algorithms which conveniently show us material based off of our past behavior and predicts what will interest us in the future. If people are not actively aware of this, then they will become monolithic in their perspective and fail to see the errors in their ideology.

There is a sense of irony in all of this. The internet is a resource of abundant knowledge that is capable of educating anyone about everything, yet people consume merely an extremely limited scope. The majority of individuals use that information not to enrich their minds, but to shore up their egos.

It is clear that a sizeable amount of the population care only for the appearances and discard the substance. The consequence is an uneducated populace that is benighted about the problems the world and helpless to devise solutions for it.