Battling bias: confirmation bias is becoming increasingly prevalent on social media

Anna Egleson

     Scrolling through social media, users see all sorts of things. Political messages, entertainment based videos, and, of course, advertisements. Oftentimes, a viewer’s feed will lead them to consume content that has a heavy correlation to their personal views. So how does this validation affect the way people interact with each other?

     Whether it be entertainment, celebrities, or social media, each of them have a marked effect on the way people interact with each other, and online media in general.

     As social media becomes more and more popular among people across the U.S., and algorithms become more advanced on various platforms, confirmation bias runs rampant.

     According to Encyclopedia Britannica, confirmation bias is “people’s tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with their existing beliefs”.

     While people are still exposed to beliefs that differ from their own regularly in daily life, because of social media, people are being validated by others, even if said beliefs are incorrect, offensive, or targeted at vulnerable groups.

     “I think confirmation bias is harmful because it doesn’t allow you to explore other opinions, and solidifies ideas that [are] fundamentally false.”

     We can see examples of bias like this all throughout history, particularly in racist or nationalist ideals. The validity of ideas like these are often questioned by those outside of a community, but the questioning of those ideas further polarize the two groups, only solidifying the beliefs of both parties.

     According to Communication Theory, an online glossary of behavioral and psychological theories, “Confirmation bias can establish and strengthen stereotypes. When we have a stereotype about someone, we look for information that is consistent with our beliefs and we disregard any contradicting evidence, thus strengthening that stereotype.”

     In a social context, confirmation bias can be extraordinarily harmful, even detrimental, to the dismantling of age old, inaccurate, stereotypes. After all, communities where a majority perceives themselves to have a moral, biological, or intellectual high ground above another party, are what leads to issues like racism, islamophobia, anti-semitism, sexism, and many others.

     The introduction of social media into everyday life has only worsened this issue. The highly predictive algorithmic nature of social media creates an echo chamber for people, making them think they are part of a majority, and dissenters are part of a minority.

     The National Library of Medicine said, “Social media-based consumption of data is directed based on interest of the consumer and that further deepens the confirmation bias in certain opinion of consumers.”

     Confirmation bias is hard to recognize, and can worm its way into the mind. Because it’s so ingrained in everyday life, it’s important to surround yourself with diverse people, ideas, and media. Don’t rely on one news source, try to open your mind to new or different ideas, and critically think about why you believe what you do, and why other people believe differently.