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Skeptical Researching in the Age of Media Mistrust: Internet Echo Chamber

Echo Chamber


"...the technology will be so good it will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them."  - Eric Schmitt, Ex-CEO of Google

The Internet, especially social media and mobile technology, has become increasing able to create customized experiences for each individual searching or browsing information online. In some ways, this can be a positive thing, and definitely very handy. For example, when you are visiting a different city (or state, or country, etc.), your Google search results will be run through localized filters to bring you the results most relevant to where you are current located. Google knows where you are!! Also, many of the ads you see embedded into websites are going to be targeting you directly—not your friends, or your parents, but you! This content customization goes beyond advertisements. Facebook feeds, for example, can become information echo chambers, flowing content based on what the algorithm, or program, predicts you will be most interested in. This can place you in a virtual world of information that only affirms what you are already believe rather than challenge you to think outside of your bubble. 

Blue Feed, Red Feed

See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side

Questions to consider:

  • Does one or the other of these feeds look more similar to your own social media news feeds?  Why do you think this is?
  • Does looking at these feeds bring up emotions in you?  What are they?  Which feed brings up stronger emotions?  Why do you think that is?

Beware online filter bubbles

Cognitive Bias Codex

The following graphic attempts to summarize the complex world of Cognitive Bias, which is the many ways our brains take shortcuts to try to make sense of a complex but that can then cause us to make mistakes of interpretation. This definitely applies to how we interpret the media!

An infographic if many forms of cognitive bias, the contents of which are summarized in the article located at

Click for larger image. Originally created as a part of this article.


How Facebook News Feed Works (Tech Crunch)

"Facebook’s objective is to select the most relevant and engaging stories to show in the News Feed. It wants to choose the best content out of several thousand potential stories that could appear in your News Feed each day, and put those in the first few dozen slots that you’ll actually browse through ... Facebook prioritizes stories you’ll Like, comment on, share, click, and spend time reading, which we’ll refer to as “engagement”. Facebook also runs both online surveys and offline focus groups to get more feedback about what stories people think should appear."

Beware the "You Loop" (Hope College Library Blog)

"Just as sites like Amazon and Ebay offer suggestions based on your prior purchases, Google now tries to feed content (not just advertisements) to you based on your web browsing history and personal interests as they are perceived, or “guessed,” by an algorithm. Sure, in some circumstances, being told 'if you liked _____, then you most certainly will like _____' is convenient and helpful in making decisions, but what does this mean in the context of real Internet research?"

Avoiding Confirmation Bias