Internet echo chamber fears 'unfounded'

New research suggest fears that social media is fragmenting society is unfounded.

Social media and the internet are not influential in fragmenting society, new research from Oxford University suggests.

The study claims that despite concerns over social media "echo chambers", where users only interact with those of a similar point of view, most people still use multiple platforms and media outlets - avoiding such spaces as a result.

According to the research, UK internet users turn to an average of four different media sources and have accounts on three different social media platforms - a broad enough range to reduce the effect of echo chambers, the study claims.

Dr Grant Blank, research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author of the study, said: "Whatever the causes of political polarisation today, it is not social media or the internet.

"If anything, most people use the internet to broaden their media horizons. We found evidence that people actively look to confirm the information that they read online, in a multitude of ways.

"They mainly do this by using a search engine to find offline media and validate political information. In the process they often encounter opinions that differ from their own and as a result whether they stumbled across the content passively or use their own initiative to search for answers while double checking their 'facts', some changed their own opinion on certain issues."

The study also found that those with a greater interest in politics were less likely to be in an echo chamber, as they sought to consume all the political media content they could access - and as a result had a "diverse media diet" spanning different views and opinions.

2 min read
Published 22 February 2018 at 6:20pm
Source: AAP