By Adam Hubbell
In today’s highly politicized media environment, it’s important to get one’s news from different sources. It’s very easy to fall into a media bubble because it’s nice to see news that reinforces one’s own opinion; everybody likes to feel right. From the major news channels like CNN, Fox, and MSNBC, to the hundreds of millions of Twitter users, people today have more choices for news than ever before. As a result we can choose only to watch the channels and follow the twitter users with whom we agree, and this causes a rift in society due to a lack of understanding. An MSNBC viewer may struggle to understand the opinions of a Fox News viewer, and vice versa, because they’re exposed to a completely different set of news stories and as such have a completely different window to reality.
Social media can be even worse than large news outlets, since people mostly friend or follow people they agree with. If someone friends/follows 500 accounts, and 450 of those people lean a certain way politically, it’s very easy to mistake that political leaning for public opinion. We’re able to pick and choose our social circles like never before, every potential digital acquaintance has a collection of 280 character opinions we can view before we decide whether to approve them as an acquaintance. This wasn’t the case before social media, when people made friends by talking to those nearest them at school or work. Two people wouldn’t know each others politics until they’d already established a rapport, this led to people knowing more people at all degrees of the political spectrum and the understanding that it’s possible to like someone personally without agreeing with them politically.
So what’s the solution? For starters, be sure to get news from multiple different sources, even about the same story. As this is being written (10/22/19), CNN, Fox, and NBC all have similar stories about President Trump’s Twitter reaction to the impeachment process against him. All 3 stories present different facts, imply different opinions, and overall paint different pictures of the actual story. Someone who reads all 3 stories may not have the “correct” opinion, but they’ll at least be better informed when making their opinion, and also more empathetic to those whose opinion differs from their own. As for social media, a radical solution would be to quit social media altogether, but a more realistic solution might be to follow intelligent, well informed people with different ideas than one’s own.
As the country grows more divided, remember that many of people’s opinions and ideas are a result of their environment. Remember that insulting someone’s opinion isn’t going to persuade them that they’re wrong, it will only make them dig in deeper on their side. Remember that the vast majority of people don’t hold their political opinions out of spite, they hold them because they think that’s what’s best for the most people. Finally, remember to have humility, no one is right about every single opinion they have, and it’s important to be willing to change one’s mind when presented with new evidence.