How Social Media Created an Echo Chamber for Ideas

In the early days of social media, idealists dreamed of a digital market place for ideas, the kind that might help rejuvenate a democracy too often given over to distractions.

In the early days of social media, idealists dreamed of a digital market place for ideas, the kind that might help rejuvenate a democracy too often given over to distractions. If communication were nearly effortless, the reasoning went, people would have much less to lose by listening to those of different ideological stripes. Today, however, sociologists have concluded that social media often entrench people's ideological positions and even make those positions more extreme. Witness the age of a bitterly divided America.


Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein has studied this phenomenon at length, finding that deliberation among a group of likeminded people moves the group toward a more extreme point of view. 

"The mere discussion of, or deliberation over, a certain matter or opinion in a group may shift the position of the entire group in a more radical direction. The point of view of each group member may even shift to a more extreme version of the viewpoint they entertained before deliberating."

Thus individuals, companies, and other organization looking to understand the world in new ways must develop tools to deliberately include opinions that they do not agree with. The problem of general agreement to the exclusion of new ideas is particularly a problem in our universities, explains Harvard english professor Louis Menand in his Big Think interview:

Read more at the Conversation

Photo credit: Shutterstock

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Why Elon Musk doesn't like Jeff Bezos's space colonies

Elon Musk took issue with recent ideas for space exploration from Jeff Bezos.

Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have sparred over space exploration previously.
  • Musk wants to focus on Mars while Bezos has the moon and space colonies as goals.
  • In a recent tweet, Musk called out Bezos's plans for space colonies as unrealistic.
Keep reading Show less

10 new things we’ve learned about death

If you don't want to know anything about your death, consider this your spoiler warning.

Culture & Religion
  • For centuries cultures have personified death to give this terrifying mystery a familiar face.
  • Modern science has demystified death by divulging its biological processes, yet many questions remain.
  • Studying death is not meant to be a morbid reminder of a cruel fate, but a way to improve the lives of the living.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • Push Past Negative Self-Talk: Give Yourself the Proper Fuel to Attack the World, with David Goggins, Former NAVY SealIf you've ever spent 5 minutes trying to meditate, you know something most people don't realize: that our minds are filled, much of the time, with negative nonsense. Messaging from TV, from the news, from advertising, and from difficult daily interactions pulls us mentally in every direction, insisting that we focus on or worry about this or that. To start from a place of strength and stability, you need to quiet your mind and gain control. For former NAVY Seal David Goggins, this begins with recognizing all the negative self-messaging and committing to quieting the mind. It continues with replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones.