We can only sharpen our collective rationality through exposure to divergent ideas. Knives are only sharpened with friction, and so our razor of socialised critical thought must be sharpened by the friction of discourse. Debate is essential to our future survival. We need diverse voices in the room.
Social media has democratised discussion and allowed amateur political thought to find an audience. This is good, but it also makes it less reliable. Because of the pervasiveness of influencer culture, anyone with a large enough audience can become an authority without their views needing to be tested, filtered or challenged through active discussion.
A recent study of confirmation bias by Walter Quattrociocchi, Antonio Scala and Cass Sunstein found evidence that social media users are drawn to information that strengthens their preferred narratives, while rejecting information that undermines it. This cognitive immunisation is a powerful force that helps us to ignore the evidence that might make us question our beliefs.
This makes bursting bubbles of groupthink hard because it requires pushing against deeply ingrained human instincts. Research shows that some obvious ideas — like showing people an article from an opposing perspective — can actually make them dig in further, regardless of the truth of the source.
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