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Do you see the whole truth online? How the 'echo chamber effect' impacts what you see on Facebook

Posted at 6:52 PM, Nov 24, 2016

It’s something that impacts almost everything you see on social media, but you probably don’t even know it’s happening.

It’s called the “echo chamber effect” – and it influences the types of posts and ads that show up in your Facebook based on what you're already clicking on. 

Students in Kristy Sheeler’s class at IUPUI have been learning about the phenomenon and how powerful it can be.

“There are these sophisticated algorithms out there that know what you like, what you click on, what you shop for. And as a result, your news feed is adjusted accordingly,” said Sheeler.

So what does it look like? Well, the Wall Street Journal has an interactive tool that shows you what red and blue news feeds look like. And depending on what you follow and click – it will continue to show you that same type of content instead of other views and opinions.

“It causes us to dig in, it causes us to assume that our opinion is right,” said Sheeler. “If we surround ourselves with opinions and narratives that support our point of view, it’s going to further polarize us.”

According to Pew Research, 61 percent of millennials use Facebook as their primary source of news about politics and government, which makes this kind of advertising a problem.

So what are some tips to help you “break out” of the echo chamber?

  • Adjust your news feed preferences – select a wider variety of content
  • Follow well-rounded people and organizations
  • Fact Check

With so many fake news stories taking over our Facebook feeds, the best thing you can do is to learn what’s real and what’s not. To do this, you can use sites like Snopes.com, Politifact.com or FactCheck.org.