Is EscapeYourBubble the Solution to the Social Media Echo Chamber?

This year, talk of the social media 'echo chamber' has been on the up. Again and again, the actual results of various elections and referendums has gone completely against what everyone was expecting, and that has broader implications about social media platforms - and Facebook in particular - as a news resource.

Since the news feed is both curated to make sure you only see things you like, and directly tethered to your friends and family, most of whom you probably have similar views to, you're unlikely to ever encounter content you disagree with.

This has turned the actual people you might disagree with into shadowy figures, making it that much easier to pigeonhole them. There were likely many Trump voters without an ounce of bigotry in their hearts, but if that's how they're represented to the people who never actually come into contact with them, well, that's how they'll all seem.

In a strange way, it actually puts me in mind of conspiracy theories. Last year, a study on conspiracy theorists' activity on Facebook showed that they were so intrenched in their own circles that when the researchers actually joined the groups and posted news so bogus it was almost laughable, they were just as receptive to it and they were to the regular, honestly intended material. With that in mind, think about all those random images of Donald Trump which have been floating around with unsourced quotes over the top. Feeling a twinge of anxiety? Yeah, me too.

So how do we deal with this? It's going to be a long, hard road, but the first step is to actually educate yourself about how the other half lives. Being able to gauge or even understand the views of people who you don't agree with, or even are angered by is very important. It leads to more open discussion, and open discussion breeds compromise. Fundamentally, most of us want the same thing.

EscapeYourBubble certainly isn't going to solve the issue by itself, but it certainly doesn't hurt. It's a Chrome extension which actively alters your news feed to offer more contrasting material, depending on who you want to 'understand better' - the left or the right. For the time being, it's aimed at Republicans and Democrats, but there's certainly potential for it to expand.

All the stories it sources are from trusted sites, and it's not necessarily all material that's meant to challenge your opinion, some of it is there to offer insights into their mindsets, and crucially, how these mindsets played into their voting habits.

Really, we shouldn't need a browser extension for this, we should all be working harder, but sometimes you need a catalyst, and this could well be it for some people. You can install EscapeYourBubble here, and even if you're not in the US, it's still a good way to make your news feed a bit less one-sided.

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