Our generation has the ability to read a seemingly infinite pool of opinions. At first glance, this seems to be empowering. Our access to information is greater than ever, with social media driving a mass of news and media to us at all times. But have you ever stopped to assess what you’re consuming? Although we have access to immense diversity of media, both in culture and opinion, how much of it do we actually let through?
With the ability to select who we follow, we’re able to filter our feeds and customise them to our likes and interests. I can select my favourite bloggers, publications, news agencies, and cultivate a wealth of information tailored to me. Even on Snapchat, although it showcases a variety of publications, I only read those that interest me, and that I trust. This is a great luxury, one I wouldn’t necessarily change. But it raises an important question. While social media gives us great power to broaden our horizons, are we actually narrowing our perspective by filtering what we consume?
The self-selection of news is becoming a big issue and it is easy to be drawn into it. If you only consume the views of those who think like you, it can only serve to reinforce what you already think and reinforce any prejudice you have.
If you’re a Trump supporter, and have no interest in hearing criticism of his administration, it’s easier than ever to mute those who disagree with you. Likewise if you hate Trump, it makes sense to follow and support publications which aren’t afraid to criticise him. Perhaps you loathe a certain boy-band because of their young female audience, but have you ever actually listened to their music? Maybe you’re a die-hard fan, but are you brave enough to have your opinion challenged by someone who isn’t?
If we only ever read opinions that reinforce our own, we are never tested. Those views are solidified, perhaps subconsciously, by the fact that everyone else on our feed agrees with us. And doesn’t that cause of a roadblock in social change?
While social media has the power to be a titan in social and political development, its potential is possibly dimmed by our ability to filter and mute those that contradict or challenge our views. The luxury of controlling what we consume means that we can read what we want to hear. But we don’t necessarily hear what we need to in order to form well-rounded opinions.
So I encourage you to consider what you’re consuming. Take an inventory. And if you’re brave enough, look elsewhere. Follow someone controversial, read a news website that you’d normally scorn, and see, at the end of it, if your opinions still stand.