“…were they merely hearing the echoes of their own voices, magnified through strange caverns & tunnels?”*

*Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs (2014).

From Wikipedia:

“In discussions of news media, an echo chamber refers to situations in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system and insulated from rebuttal.
The term is a metaphor based on an acoustic echo chamber, in which sounds reverberate in a hollow enclosure. Another emerging term for this echoing and homogenizing effect within social media communities on the Internet is cultural tribalism.

The echo chamber effect occurs online when a harmonious group of people amalgamate and develop tunnel vision. Their individual belief systems are what culminate into a confirmation bias regarding a variety of subjects.”

David Robson wrote at BBC Future on 17th April 2018:

“…Consider a paper by Seth Flaxman and colleagues at Oxford University, which examined the browsing histories of 50,000 users based in the US. In line with the received wisdom, social media and search users tended to land upon more polarised news sources – Breitbart compared to Fox News, for instance – which might translate to a more extreme world view.

Crucially, however – and contrary to the concept of the online echo chamber and filter bubble – they were also more likely to visit sites expressing opposing viewpoints. Their media diet was more varied, overall. “It seems counterintuitive, but direct browsing often just consists of one or two sites that you regularly read – such as the BBC and CNN – while by its nature, social media will expose you to a number of other sources, increasing the diversity,” says Flaxman, who is now based at Imperial College London.

Flaxman emphasises that the study is based on data from 2013, and times may have changed. But a Pew survey around the 2016 US Presidential Election broadly agrees with his findings, with the majority of people reporting a range of opinions in their social media feeds. And the University of Ottawa’s (Elizabeth) Dubois has come to similar conclusions with her own studies.
Using a survey of 2,000 British adults, she found that the majority of people already reach outside their political comfort zone: they actively seek out additional sources that convey diverse views that do not match with their preconceptions. Indeed, just 8% of Dubois’s participants scored so low on her measures of media diversity that they could be considered at risk of living an echo chamber, visiting just one or two news services without other perspectives.

Dubois emphasises that even 8% of people living in an echo chamber is still a “worrying” number. But it is far less than most pundits would have anticipated. Most people should have a reasonable idea of what the other side are thinking on current debates…”

Abstract of The echo chamber effect on social media: Matteo Cinelli, Gianmarco De Francisci Morales, Alessandro Galeazzi, Walter Quattrociocchi, Michele Starnini, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar 2021:

“Social media may limit the exposure to diverse perspectives and favor the formation of groups of like-minded users framing and reinforcing a shared narrative, that is, echo chambers. However, the interaction paradigms among users and feed algorithms greatly vary across social media platforms. This paper explores the key differences between the main social media platforms and how they are likely to influence information spreading and echo chambers’ formation. We perform a comparative analysis of more than 100 million pieces of content concerning several controversial topics (e.g., gun control, vaccination, abortion) from Gab, Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. We quantify echo chambers over social media by two main ingredients: 1) homophily in the interaction networks and 2) bias in the information diffusion toward like-minded peers. Our results show that the aggregation of users in homophilic clusters dominate online interactions on Facebook and Twitter. We conclude the paper by directly comparing news consumption on Facebook and Reddit, finding higher segregation on Facebook.”

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