Social media acts as an echo chamber for your opinions

Ella Beiser, Assistant Editor

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A couple weeks ago, a video circulated depicting teenager Nick Sandmann wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, inches away from Nathan Phillips, a Native American man singing in prayer surrounded by Nick’s classmates sporting similar political apparel. The negative reaction to the teenager on social media was tremendous.

This encounter was amplified by the media, and was only a select portion of the encounter. In reality, Mr. Phillips clarified he approached the crowd and intervened. The large group of rowdy teenagers “vilified [them] out of context” and made them seem threatening, according to the New York Times.

Social media can act as an echochamber, amplifying views regardless of their accuracy. Therefore, people must be mindful about where they get their news.

While I do not condone the actions of the teenagers, the full picture of that afternoon makes the situation more complicated. I was enraged when I saw the video, deeming Nick’s actions disrespectful. The full picture shows this is an example of how social media can be manipulated to spark reactions groups of people.

According to the New York Times, Russia’s Internet Research Agency targeted the 2016 presidential election and spread considerable pro-Trump advertisements targeting “groups like African-Americans, evangelical Christians and pro-gun activists to sow division, confuse voters and support the candidacy of Donald J. Trump.” Tactics include voting scams like“Text-to-Vote” and misleading tweets about voting rules. Encouraging voters to waste their vote on a third party and launching social media campaigns such as “stay home on Election Day, your vote doesn’t matter” according to New Knowledge, the company that produced the report on Russian disinformation in the 2016 presidential election.

By this method of deception, social media acts as an echo chamber amplifying certain political views and targeting those most susceptible to them.

The New York Times describes this sort of disinformation as a “high stakes information war.” The IRA’s campaign included 10.4 million tweets, 1,100 YouTube videos, 116,000 Instagram posts and 61,500 unique Facebook posts.

“It’s the terrain on which our entire political culture rests, whose peaks and valleys shape our everyday discourse, and whose possibilities for exploitation are nearly endless,” according to The New York Times.

Disinformation and manipulation of social media is not limited to Russia and has been used to help both Republican and Democrat political campaigns.

To combat this phenomenon, Americans need to be more diligent about where they get their news and what they believe. Consider cutting back on news from social media and consider professional newspapers.