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The Fight for First Truth

A growing concern in today’s age of information overload is the “echo-chamber” effect that comes about from one’s own desire to justify their held beliefs and the natural tendency for people to form connection with similar individuals. The “echo-chamber” is used to describe the scenario in which a person will (possibly unknowingly) be inclined to search for, or place more value on, ideas and information that support their existing views. This can often be made more pronounced when the individual exists in a social network of similarly opinionated people, through shared posts, conversations, likes, retweets, etc.

This can be obvious in cases like political alignment, however, in an attempt to avoid indulging any particular side, this will be kept hypothetical. In this case of hypothetical polar beliefs, A and B, it would be expected that each appeal to a different group of people. Since these groups are made of similarly-minded people, it is clear that there is a higher likelihood of social connection within a group, than across them. In this way, it can be expected that two large groups would form (assuming neither A or B is widely preferred), each with their own respective “echo”.

Following the issue deeper bring about another concern; a fight over the internet. In modern times, the online world can often be someone’s first introduction to a particular issue or important story. Phycology tells us that a persons first encounter with a subject can have a strong influence on their views of it. This is often referred to as “anchoring” to a piece of information. But what determines what this new individual will read or see first? Oftentimes, it’s Google, and Google doesn’t necessarily have an opinion, so then what determines what Google returns? One of the main ways that Google decides how to rank its results is by the number of references (web-links ) going to a particular page, and this is where the two competing beliefs, A and B, come into play. Group A will have a tendency to link and reference web-pages that share their belief, as will Group B, leaving Google to discern between competing, polar opinions, and ultimately, leaving the new individual with concentrated A, or concentrated B to learn from, further polarizing the groups, and potentially losing the insight that could come about a more integrated social network.

 

Sources:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/misinformation-social-networks_us_568d7cf5e4b0cad15e63279d

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