Over the years, the way people consume information has evolved drastically. From word of mouth, to letters, to periodicals, to radio, to television, to the internet, we must constantly keep up with the progress of technology if we want to stay informed.
It should follow, then, that those who get their news and information from the internet, particularly a constantly updating source like Facebook, would be the most up-to-date and well informed. Data would seem to prove, however, quite the opposite.
According to the results of a theory published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Science, by Facebook’s own internal data science team, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm prioritizes prevailing and self-validating views based on the “like” activity of you and your friends. In short, Facebook will tend to serve you content that amplifies and validates news, viewpoints and opinions to which you and your friends already subscribe. On average, a person is approximately 6% less likely to see content from countervailing viewpoints.
This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, and makes sense the more you think about it. The same phenomenon occurs in real-world social groups. If you primarily spend time around vegans, discussing vegan opinions, more of the interactions you have on a daily basis are going to be slanted toward a vegan agenda than those of the average person would be.
In a Facebook press outreach in response to these findings, they emphasize that the algorithm is less a factor in this phenomenon than one’s individual choice; a user’s actions and groups of friends will tend to shield them from content with which they disagree.
If there’s anything to be taken away from this, it’s that you may not be as well informed as you think you are, just because you’ve read all the recent articles and discussed the issue on Facebook. If you realize that the social network is simply one of many channels through which we are served content every day, and should not be considered as an objective news source, you’ll be well on your way to having more rounded facts and opinions.