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From Homophily to Polarization in Social Media

This is your third and final discussion blog post in this course. Remember to create your post as a Microsoft Word document so you can upload it to Turnitin before pasting into the blog platform.

In the second discussion of Unit 3 we addressed some potential benefits of connecting and developing homophily through social media interaction. In this discussion, we will expand on the influences that contribute to homophily and may lead to potential risks of social media.

In addition to sending us information that supports our likes, social media platform algorithms also track what we do not like, and they use this information to avoid sending unwanted information. If your tastes are more intense or extreme, algorithms will fuel your passions with similar posts and ads. If your politics are on the far left or right, expect to receive more information from your preferred perspective and none from alternative perspectives. This process contributes to siloing, or isolating people based on beliefs.

This process can be further fed by many cognitive biases, or flawed thinking. Among these are the confirmation bias (tendency to believe things that match our existing beliefs), illusory truth effect (tendency to believe statements are true if they are easier to understand, or if they have been repeated many times, regardless of their veracity), and sociocentric thinking (tendency to place one’s group or beliefs above all others: “It’s true because we believe it’s true.”).

When you combine the influences of homophily, algorithms that feed your likes and avoid dislikes, and the natural tendency we have all have towards cognitive and social biases, the result can be living in a social media “bubble.” Eventually this isolation can lead to polarization: the tendency to concentrate in polar opposites, with little room in the middle to relate to others. There is abundant evidence of polarization in the politics of many nations today, and the use of social media has the potential to significantly contribute to that polarization.

For this initial discussion blog post:

  • Divide your initial discussion blog post into three sections using bold-type section headers:
    • In the first section of your blog post, briefly discuss factors that contribute to feeling connected in social media and the development of homophily. Include a hyperlink to your u03d2 discussion blog post so the reader can easily review what you stated on this topic in that blog post.
    • In the second section, discuss how algorithms and cognitive biases can intensify homophily and contribute to isolation. Discuss some of the potential risks of this phenomenon in social media, with examples (such as bullying, hate speech, political extremism, or radicalization of terrorists).
    • In the third section of your blog post, discuss some constructive steps people can take to prevent these potential risks in their use of social media. Include specific examples such as maintaining a sense of curiosity, considering alternative perspectives, fact-checking, and cultivating diversity consciousness and open-mindedness.
    • Finally, conclude your post with a references section. Your references should be in APA format and you should have references matching each of the in-text citations used in your post.


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