Boston: Facebook may actually make us more narrow-minded because we seek out news and views that tally with our opinions, according to a new study which contradicts the belief that the social media sites expand our world.
The study shows social media isolates us, creating and facilitating confirmation biases and echo chambers where old – and sometimes erroneous – information is just regurgitated over and over again. Using data modelling researchers, including those from Boston University in the US, mapped the spread of two types of content: conspiracy theories and scientific information.
“Our findings show that users mostly tend to select and share content related to a specific narrative and to ignore the rest.”In particular, we show that social homogeneity is the primary driver of content diffusion, and one frequent result is the formation of homogeneous, polarised clusters,” researchers said.
“Our analysis showed that two well-shaped, highly segregated, and mostly non-interacting communities exist around scientific and conspiracy-like topics,” Alessandro Bessi, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southern California, said.
“Users show a tendency to search for, interpret, and recall information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs,” he said. This is called “confirmation bias,” and Bessi said it is actually one of the main motivations for sharing content, CNN reported.
Instead of sharing to challenge or inform, social media users are more likely to share an idea already commonly accepted in their social groups for the purpose of reinforcement or agreement. The findings were published in the journal PNAS.