Don’t forget the other side

“Don’t let this become you online.”

“Don’t let this become you online.”

Most teens use online social networking sites such as Tumblr or Reddit, which receive over 100 million unique users a month.  Using these sites, people can connect to thousands of people worldwide who share similar views, but that is not always a good thing.

When people are around those who share their views and their views only, an echo chamber can develop. These are communities where highly opinionated ideas are taken as fact, because everyone already shares a similar viewpoint, leaving little debate over many issues. Much of the time, it’s innocent. Movie A is bad, book B is great or show C is awful, but when the opinions are political, dealing with economics or social issues, things can quickly become caustic.

Furthermore, the internet has a problem with statistics, facts and studies popping out of thin air as if they were true. Because of both echo chambers and misinformation, people begin to hold complex views that are complex as black or white, with each side declaring themselves “right.” If someone is “right,” then the opposite side is “wrong,” which leads to the differing opinion being demonized. Although people can try to surround themselves with like-minded individuals, it is impossible to avoid others’ views forever. This will lead to conflict, but it doesn’t have to be a huge war. Simple debate would be fine, but echo chambers can cause both sides to be so sure of how right they are, and of how wrong their opponents are, that any chance at rational and mature discussion is doomed from the start. Even worse, if it turns into a shouting match, both sides will come away with even more distrust and anger towards the other, leading to even more conflict in the future.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The biggest way to combat the echo chamber is to simply break out of it. It is important to see what the opposition is actually saying, as opposed to what others say they say. You might still think they’re wrong, but at least you will come to the conclusion yourself rather than having someone else tell you. Another thing to always remember is that your opponents are not evil. They are most likely not morons either. Demonizing them only causes people to argue more with feelings than facts than facts, and only furthers an “us versus them” mentality.

It is important to research everything you read online, or at least think about it.  

“I take opinion as fact too often,” Geneva Paulk (10) said.

The best way to combat false information is to take everything with a grain of salt. Don’t believe everything you read online. Small steps like these could drastically change online culture for the better.