The burst of the blue bubble

I have felt useless contributing to the conversations following the election of Donald Trump last week. I haven’t felt the fire in my chest to protest, to take a stand, to sign the petition in the hopes that a loophole will bring Clinton into office. I don’t feel that those are actions helping me get closer to reality.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the social media discourse, it’s that it is an echo chamber. I have taken comfort in my blue bubble for many years, believing that the country was collectively rolling forward in progress. I take comfort in it now in remembering that in the light of electing a white supremacist, my circle of diverse friends and allies will continue to exist and advocate for each other in the face of the doom that marches forward on January 20. But alas.

The Wall Street Journal released an interesting interface called Blue Feed, Red Feed, a project that shows how Facebook reveals an entirely different set of articles and news sources depending on the political alignment of the user. To a red user, posts about “reverse racism on the rise as black Americans beat an old Trump supporter” hit headlines, while a blue user reads about “Hijabi woman gets robbed and beaten by racist Trump supporter.” Clicking through this site makes it clear just how different the world is shaped and seen by people interacting with different corners of the internet.

Back in journalism class in high school, I was asked by my teacher, “What is the most important part about being a journalist?” I replied that it was to tell the truth, and was immediately corrected. “The most important thing is to make money.”Part of the reason this is so is because nobody is paying for good journalism anymore. Smaller scale newspapers and magazines are underfunded and have to rely on sensationalist drama to catch a reader’s eye.

Seeing the effect that this sort of news bias has had on our election, I now believe it is imperative to spend the money to get good journalism. No matter what the cost. I would be willing to pay to hear the truth if it means that I never have to feel the shock that the majority of the country is speaking an entirely different language when it comes to the conversations around choosing our next president. Of course, election articles and polls are merely speculative until the votes start rolling in. CNN was wrong. BBC was wrong. Even Nate Silver was wrong.  Over at Carreon Thinking, she says “this era of weakened trust in mainstream outlets and in poor media literacy is troubling considering that Balkan teenagers can run pro-Trump websites full of inaccurate or misleading information that nevertheless generates hundreds of thousands of engagements on social media.” But I no longer want to be in my blue echo chamber. This is the time for Americans like me to switch to Fox News every once in a while. For Republicans to have conversations with their Muslim and Latinx colleagues. For the bubble to burst.

6 thoughts on “The burst of the blue bubble

  1. I think we live in an age where many of us literally can’t imagine paying for the news because we have always been able to conveniently find it online. I agree that this is no longer responsible. Doing so causes us to create our own reality.
    I watch Fox News at my grandparents’ house. It always surprises me, worries me, and frankly confuses me. But I think you’re right. We need to feel that way sometimes, and probably frequently.
    I’ve been surprised about the amount of anger that people have towards Facebook and Twitter for having algorithms that give people recommended news sites. I don’t know if we can blame the social media sites, or the users for not seeking out anything beyond their comfort zones.

  2. I agree with everything you said in this article, most especially the idea that we do have to do peruse our television channels once in a while and click on news channels which we would not have necessarily watched in the past. To jump off what you said, perhaps the fact that Nate Silver (or any other critical analysts in general) were wrong about the election results is startling and humbling at the same time. We must be more speculative, more investigative and more willing to explore other opinions, news outlets, and media — most especially when it is the most difficult. I applaud you for not adding onto the echo chamber and endless comments, dislikes and rants on social media. It is very much needed that we use our pain, anger, disbelief, our emotions to fuel the need to change our society.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. A lot of people use social media as a primary source of information, which can only broaden the gap between the red and the blue. Facebook automatically places posts that are likely to pander towards you based on which posts you’ve recently liked or shared. This makes Republicans over-exposed to news that fits their opinions on events, because they have recently liked such posts and because they are more likely to have Reblican friends. The same goes for Democrats, of course, and the mere exposure effect makes us naturally assume that the information we normally see is all the information there is. It becomes baffling that anyone can have a opinion that different than yours, because what you see on social media is constructed around reinforcing your particular point of view, without you noticing. Considering how prevalent social media is in our everyday lives, and how important it has become in the realm of political discourse, social media outlets should really take a little more responsibility in the sentiment of hatred and alienation that is plaguing the nation.

  4. I think although this post was short and simple, it was very powerful. I strongly believe that the idea of a bubble in general not only applies to you, but to many others as well. Something I found particularly interesting this post was the Wall Street Journal findings of Facebook’s Red Feed, Blue Feed… Is that even legal? Isn’t this the whole reason why we come to college, to hear both sides of every story? I think it’s extremely disheartening that we believe news outlets and even social media present themselves to be truthful and unbiased, when in reality, they are reinforcing stereotypes that the media is corrupt and just feeding us lies.

  5. A great burden of sadness took over me as I read this. Let me explain. I also became very devastated by the outcome of this year’s election. I had my own bubble, too. In this bubble, I also believed that the US was slowly but surely ALWAYS progressing. The election of Donald Trump was a great step backwards. However, what made me sadder was the realization that the facebook has played us all.

  6. I read an article a few days ago that you might like, telling the story of two men from my hometown who have started making insane amounts of money writing fake right-wing news. If the purpose of journalism is to make money, they are excellent journalists. They have the system down to a science, posting at exact times to encourage virality despite knowing that their news is made up. While this fulfills your teacher’s purpose of “making money,” I think I would get very tired of writing lies for a paycheck, and I wonder if these two men will as well. However, I found it interesting to get inside the minds of the people who are making these things up. At least they’re willing to admit that it’s all a sham.

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