Since the Presidential Election, there has been a lot reported on fake news: social media accounts that peddle misinformation and fabricated stories online. A misinformed electorate can lead to faulty decision making, a legitimate concern associated with social media. However, echo-chambers are another concern that need addressing.
The days of relying on one or two nightly news broadcasts and a local newspaper are gone. Those platforms broadcasted the most relevant news, with gatekeepers like editors and publishers to fight against bias and misinformation.
Social media offers “news” tailored to personal interests, and on these platforms, consumers can choose what to see and what not to see. They see and hear only that which conforms to what they want to see and hear, hence the echo chamber.
In the age of the internet, there’s danger in choosing to live in a bubble impervious to the penetration of challenging thoughts and notions. It creates a confirmation bias that we must be right in our firmly held beliefs. If a consumer sees something, which they already believe to be true, it reinforces their preexisting views; that becomes their evidence. It becomes their truth, even if it’s not the actual truth.
Confirmation bias that stems from the depths of the echo chamber contributes to a lack of faith in institutions vital to the foundation of our democracy, such as professional journalism. It further divides our electorate, because, even if Americans can’t agree on every issue, there should at least be a conversation between both sides.
Consumers of information dive into their echo-chamber to avoid the feeling of cognitive dissonance, that perhaps their view is wrong. It’s in human nature to do this, but this country was built on the idea that we are different: Americans can come together to work out a compromise between their respective visions for the future, but that task becomes impossible with selective follows, blocking, name calling and hiding behind the screen of a smartphone.
And perhaps the worst offender of all is the President. There is undoubtedly an echo chamber in the White House.
President Trump follows 47 accounts on Twitter, his preferred method of communication with the American people. The leader of the free world is free to follow whoever he pleases and free to not follow whoever else. But just because he can, it doesn’t mean it’s a healthy habit.
Consider how much time President Trump spends on Twitter. Now consider who he follows on Twitter. This is where he gets his information from. This is his truth.
12 of the President’s 47 follows include news programs, hosts or news sites, most of which have ties to Fox News. The information disseminated by these folks and their accounts has serious power. These are people the President likes and agrees with, and the work they do reaches the President’s ears. They include Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Jesse Watters, among others.
Hannity himself has said that he played an informal advisory role on the 2016 Trump campaign, and is often the President’s go to “journalist” to have a sit-down interview with.
Fox & Friends, another one of the President’s followed accounts, has regularly been a part of his morning routine, especially during the campaign— where he could call into the friends on the curvy couch and set the news agenda for the day.
Ingraham regularly defends the President’s policies and views such as those on athlete protesting. Her latest book, Billionaire at the Barricades, sets out to cement Trump’s legacy: The great champion of a populist movement, taking up the torch from Ronald Reagan, ready to “Make America Great Again.”
The rest of President Trump’s follows include supporters such as Diamond & Silk and Corey Lewandowski, members of the Administration such as Vice President Mike Pence and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump golf courses, Trump resorts, and, of course, members of the Trump family.
A handful of Fox News hosts, campaign staffer, and Trump family members are heavily influencing the decisions that affect over 325 million people in the United States, and billions around the world.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” With the power the President has, he should be urged to diversify his sources of information.
There is an echo chamber in the White House, but President Trump is not the only one who needs healthier social media habits. If we as citizens can escape our online bubbles and diversify our sources of information, we will become a more educated and prosperous society.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.