The news is biased towards negative stories. Is there an alternative? Social media echo chambers are being slammed by experts, but are they really a bad thing?
F**k ‘the news’ – Listen to BBC Radio 4 PM instead
What with the Trump debacle, climate change and Brexit, I’m sorely tempted to ignore the news altogether and live happily in splendid ignorance. Watch the TV news, read the papers and you’d be forgiven for thinking the end of the world is nigh. That’s the problem with news: the way it’s traditionally presented, we only get negative stories.
Is ‘news’ negative by nature? There’s no reason why it should be, but it tends to be. The media delivers a constant stream of ugliness, despair, dysfunction, ignorance, extremism, violence, scandal and gossip, cruelty and stupidity. But if the human race was really that bad, genuinely going to hell in a hand-basket, society would be in a constant state of chaos. It isn’t. The good/bad balance obviously errs towards the good. Which suggests the news is biased.
Thankfully BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, presented by Eddie Mair, saves the day. Yes, it’s ‘the news’. But it’s presented in a totally different way from the rest, BBC TV news included. It’s informative. It’s thorough, truthful, in-depth and intelligent. It’s also balanced, realistic and often uplifting. That’s more like it.
Are social media ‘echo chambers’ really a bad thing… or even a new thing?
In a social media context, the echo chamber phenomenon is seen as a bad thing. But is it really that different from real life, from offline life?
In real life most of us attract friends with the same basic values as our own. The same goes for our relationships. You don’t find many dyed-in-the-wool socialists marrying out and out fascists, or racists cohabiting with people from different racial backgrounds. We feel most comfortable with people who think and feel the same way as we do.
At the same time we’re being warned against blocking people on social media whose opinions we disagree with. It’s seen as a bad thing, something unwise, apparently leaving us stuck in dangerously artificial communities where our fellow members agree with everything we say and we never get to see the other side of the story.
I think punters deserve more credit than that. Just because I block people on Twitter who promote intolerance towards, say, refugees, it doesn’t mean I haven’t carefully examined the arguments for and against helping refugees. Just because I block racists on Twitter it doesn’t mean I am somehow missing out on a vital cultural or political debate. All I’m doing is building a community like my offline one, full of people on my wavelength with the same world view. It’s what humans do.
What do you think?