Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Flocking Behavior on Social Media Can Lead to Narrow Thinking, Flawed Decisions

Ethan Zuckerman has written about an important issue regarding our use of social media.   The Harvard Gazette recently wrote about a talk that Zuckerman gave at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  Berkman noted, "Human beings flock; we tend to seek out people like us."  He argued that individuals tend to engage in a great deal of "flocking" behavior on social media platforms.   They find and follow people who are very similar to them.  He says, "We have a talent for finding people with the same socioeconomic background or racial background. But this tendency to flock may be keeping us from finding the information we need... My fear is that our tools are not promoting diversity."   In short, we are not experiencing a wide range of perspectives on issues and topics.  We are hearing from voices that are similar to ours.  As a result, we are vulnerable to the confirmation bias, i.e. we are looking for information that confirms what we already believe.   Cognitive diversity can be an important factor when making decisions, yet social media seems to discourage the nurturing of this key attribute.  For more on Zuckerman's work, see this Ted Talk below:

No comments: