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How Social Media Echo Chambers Dupe the Public

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Social media has become a staple in our society. Through these platforms we stay connected with family and friends, create “cyber friends”, glean information, and take action on events and issues that are important to us. As the social media spheres become more politicized they also become more compartmentalized. This leads to the danger of producing large member echo chambers that increasingly become ineffective in their goals.

We’ve all seen the posts on platforms like Facebook. Something outrageous is rightly exposed and hundreds or thousands of people have “liked” (or indicated anger) at the post. Some reply to the post with comments and some, albeit less often, share the post with likeminded friends, family, and groups. But outside of an individual’s sphere of influence – and since likeminded people tend to belong to the same groups and circles – the “outrage” has a shelf life and usually ends with the perpetrators of the outrage not feeling any heat for their bad actions.

A 2018 Pew Research Center report identified that two-thirds (68 percent) of Americans get their news and information from social media. And while 57 percent of that group “expect” the bulk of any information gleaned from social media to be “inaccurate” – not false, but inaccurate, an alarming 42 percent believe the information is accurate. That means roughly one-third (28.56 percent) of American believe that the information floated on social media is “accurate”.

The largest group in that percentage is Facebook, weighing in at 43 percent. This is the social media vehicle that pushed “groups”; intra-social media circles that compartmentalize people into likeminded pods, i.e. “groups.” While this structure allows for likeminded people to commiserate amongst themselves, most often it facilitates the illusion of successful activism in the face of outrage by way of creating “echo chambers”.

A perfect example comes in a story about an AP history class at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland. During a lesson, the teacher displayed a slide that equated President Trump and his administration to the Nazis of Germany and the Communist Party under Stalin.

“A slide used in an Advanced Placement history class at Loch Raven High School in Towson shows a picture of Trump above pictures of a Nazi swastika and a flag of the Soviet Union. Two captions read ‘wants to round up a group of people and build a giant wall’ and ‘oh, THAT is why it sounds so familiar!’”

To be sure, this type of political indoctrination propaganda should never be displayed in a classroom. It is blatantly biased and promotes a political agenda. Our education system should be charged – exclusively – with teaching our children how to think, not what to think. Sadly, we do not teach critical thinking skills today, but I digress.

I posted this story to the One America News Network Facebook group (among many others) stating: “Everyone should contact Principal Janine Holmes ([email protected]) and demand this teacher be fired. #Politics #StopTheIndoctrination”. To which one member replied, “What, you don’t think the principal knows about it?”

To his credit, I do understand what he was saying. Yes, I am certain that Principal Holmes knew about it. I suspect that she even agreed with it. But this comment illustrates my point.

If Principal Holmes’ email address wasn’t included in that post how many people would have simply “liked” (or selected the angry emoji) and commented on the post without actually doing something about it? How many would have taken the time to search out the contact information for this principal in an effort to express outrage? To that end, I wonder how many actually did email the principal. The outrage of the overwhelming number of group members, regarding this teacher’s action, will, sadly, remain ineffective; it will remain in the echo chamber of that group and the groups that exist within the spheres of its members having no effect on the situation whatsoever.

Additionally, many members of one conservative group are members of the many other conservative groups, constituting a larger but still compartmentalized circular echo chamber. This further isolates any social outrage rendering it ineffective in achieving meaningful change. While a person may feel they have done something to create a loud voice to push back against an outrage; feel they have done their part to combat cultural erosion, they have, in fact, done very little.

Without including the information necessary to take action (i.e. an email address, phone number, or website link) – and without each and every one of us taking the time to act on that call to action, the outrage and effort needed to affect real change remains compartmentalized and ineffective.

Social media echo chambers are where great intentions go to die. This is especially true for conservative-minded group echo chambers. Progressives and Justice Democrats understand this and that’s why they can routinely – and for the most inane of reasons – produce large-member pressure vehicles (emails, phone calls, letters and protests) at a moment’s notice.

Until conservatives and constitutionalists understand that meaningful action takes more than a “like” and a comment, the Leftists amongst us will continue to win incrementally. Until conservatives and constitutionalists come to grips with the reality that – for now – Leftists organize to action better than we do, the country will continue on its path to becoming a socialist democracy.

Frank Salvato

Frank Salvato is a partner at TRR Consulting Group, LLC, a reputation management and organizational strategies group. He serves as managing editor of The New Media Journal. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His analysis has been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times, and Accuracy in Media, and is syndicated nationally. Mr. Salvato has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel and is the author of six books examining internal and external threats facing our country. He can be heard twice weekly on “The Captain’s America: Third Watch” radio program syndicated nationally on the Salem Broadcasting Network and is a host on The Underground Podcast Network.
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