On homophily and how to keep an open mind when the web makes it all too easy to live in an echo chamber

Some of my Facebook ‘friends’ have liked those pages that have so called inspirational quotes. This is fine until they repost one or like a quote which then appears in my news feed. One recent one I found profoundly depressing “You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with so be brave enough to let go of those who keep weighing you down.” This quote is wrong on so many levels but I’ll just stick to the homophily issue for here.

What it says to be is ‘get rid of people who disagree with you, who challenge you and make you think even if it is painful to hear.’ With the web and social media it is all to easy to live in an online world where you only ever interact with people like yourself and you can easily kid yourself just how diverse a network you have.

“look at all my friends from across the globe, I’m so tolerant and diverse.” Grr.

So how do we avoid this?

I’m sure there are wiser people out there than me who can answer this. But for me I try to keep in mind two simple strategies:

1) read widely, read opinions / articles that you disagree with. This is a good test to help me understand what my values truly are and it also serves to remind me than people do have radically different views to me.

2) Follow people on twitter than have different views (and FB friends). Do the opposite of the quote. Even though certain ‘friends’ and people I follow annoy me intensely at times it serves again as a reminder of the diversity of opinion in the world. It reminds me I must be tolerant of other views.

We can only make the world more equal if we attempt to understand opposing views not hide our head in the sand and pretend those views do not exist.

…and that last sentence risks sounding like an empty platitude (hoisted by my own petard!!!)

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