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The issue with political confirmation bias and social media


Photo credit: Amelia Nowicki

By Editorial Board

Even though our generation, Generation Z, is considered to be a part of the “age of information,” it can be argued that the label is a misnomer. Even though we have the most expansive access to knowledge and information than ever before, there is also the greatest amount of misinformation, whether it be blatantly fake or heavily biased. 

Along with the vast spread of misinformation, both bias and social media also cause problems as they lead to us never having our beliefs challenged, due to the fact that many are continually exposed to information from the same sources, often ones that coincide with one’s bias. 

Misinformation can be defined as something that is completely fabricated, or information that is only partially true, with the latter being more common than expected. In today’s day and age, people often bend the truth in order to further their own political agendas and ideologies. A perfect example of this is when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with a statistic that said six percent of coronavirus deaths had only coronavirus listed on the death certificate, while the other 94 percent had other causes listed along with the virus such as heart disease. Some misinterpreted the data as saying that only six percent of COVID-19 deaths actually died from the illness, with the other ones dying only from the other causes, which is simply a logical fallacy. 

This incorrect information spread across the internet like wildfire, and caused people to take the deadly virus even less seriously, endangering themselves and others. Misinformation on social media is rampant, as people can for the most part post and spread what they want almost instantly. 

It is our current reality that most of the news we receive is heavily biased, whether it be through social media or legitimate news organizations. News on social media can obviously be shared and posted by anyone and everyone, giving it little to no credibility, however, people still believe many things they see on social media without fact-checking. In recent months, many young people have been sharing infographics on popular social media features such as Instagram stories, which is fine, except for the bias within the posts. This information is shared without doing any further research, which is an issue because much of the information has been cherry-picked to fit the narrative of the post. 

In terms of the mainstream media, most sources are incredibly biased with their reporting both online and on TV, which is not limited to just one side. Although many disagreeing politicians may claim that most big-name news outlets are “fake news,” the problem of biased information is prevalent on both sides of the political spectrum. According to Media Bias/Fact Check, Fox News has a solid right bias and CNN has a solid left bias, while both have mixed factual reporting. The danger of this is that much information can be left out of important issues or events, thus influencing certain viewpoints on events rather than letting viewers decide for themselves. 

Often, people do not try to consume news from a different source, due to both a force of habit and many having an aversion to challenging their beliefs. So, the cycle of receiving like-minded news continues, which can cause oversimplification of complicated topics and a lack of complex understanding. 

Another massive contributor to this problem is social media algorithms, especially on platforms built for younger audiences. For example, TikTok specifically customizes a “For You” page to have content that it thinks individual users would like based on the videos they interact with. Since people are more inclined to like or save videos they agree with, the idea that social media will narrow the scope on one viewpoint fulfills the confirmation bias most viewers have. 

The issue of misinformation is much more widespread than most would like to think or admit, but there are things we can do to help broaden our perspective. It’s imperative to make sure we fact check information we’re reading or hearing about, use mostly unbiased sources for news such as Reuter’s, stop viewing social media platforms as news sources rather than what they are: social media platforms, as well as trying to open your mind to different viewpoints on certain topics. By doing this, we can evolve into a more educated and reasonable society with better critical thinking skills and well thought-out opinions.