Social media echo chambers and its dangers


​​My TikTok “For You page” is specifically catered to me: a perfect combination of dogs, tutorials and dancing videos. My Facebook ads always seem to know exactly what I want and what I need. Instagram can recommend my friends’ accounts before I even look for them. Time and time again, the algorithm gets it right. From the user perspective, this is great: “hand-picked” entertainment to fit your specific interests. 

However, these echo chambers, with constantly repeated ideas, can cause significant problems. When one only hears one side of the story repeatedly, one can become blinded to the actual truth. This form of blindness leads to the rise and popularity of conspiracy theories. Conspiracists are repeatedly fed these theories, which leads to them believing fully in them. They are in groups and forums where they are fed the same information over and over. Isolated from the rest of the public, they are unaware of what actually goes on, making them more susceptible to believing and following conspiracy theories, ultimately leading to this cult-like following we often see. 

On Jan. 6, 2021, these conspiracy theories reached a new high. Trump supporters stormed the capitol building because they believed that the election had been stolen. Because of their actions, they ended up killing five people. These supporters had been so brainwashed by their own echo chambers that they completely lost touch with reality. 

Echo chambers isolate their members from the rest of society. This then leads to its members being unwilling to listen to information from the outside, which makes the effects of echo chambers even worse. Those inside the echo chambers think the rest of the world is blind and those on the outside think they are crazy. This hyperpolarization causes the divide between conspiracy and reality to grow even wider. 

The consequences of these echo chambers can be fatal in more ways than just an insurrection. Last summer, TikTok’s “For You page” pages became flooded with pro-anorexic content. Luckily, I have a strong support system that was able to help me, but for those who struggle more with mental health issues, the consequences of this can be fatal. These echo chambers can normalize issues that should never have been normalized. 

Although it might be convenient that our social media pages match our ideology, it is imperative that we realize that we are often only getting a skewed version of life. Algorithms are not always beneficial, and like always, be conscious of the media you are consuming.