The importance of diversity in who you follow on Twitter – and five ideas to prevent echo chamber thinking in the social media age 

You know how they all say that you should follow some people you don’t agree with, or those who have different views to you, on Twitter and Facebook to prevent echo chamber social media issues – you probably should do it 

Echo chambers of social media are a big problem, and contribute to our inability to assess the world around us objectively – they can easily be blamed for the rise of Donald trump, the inaccurate sense of public opinion levels on the Brexit referendum and all sorts of other fun social biases we develop (it’s confirmation bias and we love it – we love to see other people tell us we’re right) this isn’t a new problem in the age of social media – the people we socialise with cause this as well – but it’s easier to resolve through social media 
I come to you with this idea not as an enthusiastic convert – but as someone who took up the challenge last month and for the most part hated it, but sees the benefit in it none the less. 

For contexts sake: Prior to the 1st of September 2016 you could have put good money on the first post on my feed being about atheism, and better money on the post below that being about the lib dems – but after reading some articles about the dangers of echo chamber thinking I took a challenge – I was going to follow 10 blogs on Twitter who held views I completely disagreed with (within ethical reason) 

And so I did – and in all honesty while half the time I was sitting there thinking “What have I done what is all this rubbish” I actually gained a lot – and haven’t unfollowed them as I said I would if it didn’t work out. I have widened my view of society through this process so wanted to give advice in how to undertake this process on social media yourself 

The issue itself may seem self explanatory – but this is advice I would have given myself based on the issues I faced undertaking the process 

  1. Stick with it – No matter how tired you are of the 10th post about the dangers of secularism in the west (from reputable think tanks – not ISIS) and how tired you are of having your own views challenged all the time just stick with it 
  2. If struggling for ideas try following a newspaper or news source outside of your political affiliation – I follow the spectator now – and I’ve heard all sorts of stories and ideas I wouldn’t have read in the independent 
  3. If an article catches your eye, or makes you want to tear out someone else’s then go for it! – The article, not someone else’s eyes, I have read so many articles which have infuriated me from the tag line, and while my blood pressure hasn’t been helped by the process I have learned a lot, understand ideas I disagree with a lot more, and have great new ammunition for defending my own views!
  4. Read the articles as you would read articles which support your own views – we lose so much in reading other ideas if we automatically approach them with scorn and mistrust, take the leap of faith (and that is the only time I will ever say that on this blog ever) and embrace the new ideas without any baggage 
  5. Read critically – while this may seem like a contradiction to my last point it shouldn’t be if you read articles properly in your day to day life – but it must be said that if you read a lot of articles and ideas which happen to be in your area you become subconsciously better at spotting the biases and common myths in your own belief systems – this is more difficult when reading ideas outside of your normal range so be careful to read critically 

I hope this helps someone – and encourages you to take up the challenge yourself as it’s well worth doing and tells you a lot about yourself in the process. 


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