It really shouldn’t be understated how dangerous confirmation bias has become in the modern digital age. It all stems from an unwillingness to look at both sides of any issue.
Confirmation bias is the result of only seeking information that backs up a previously held belief. It doesn’t have to be an extreme belief, but even an inkling of an idea can be magnified when it bounces around a self-made echo chamber.
The examples are endless in the landscape of social media. How many people held to their original perception of the D.C. rally with the Catholic school boys even after more video released? Why did so few care that the Press Secretary of the United States shared a manipulated video to strengthen an argument? Why are people still so vehemently anti-vaccination in the face of measles outbreaks? How do we ignore historic lessons on the dangers of nationalism or the flaws in socialism?
Are we really becoming more extreme, or are we just not challenging ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones? A healthy dose of cynicism might do us some good, but we shouldn’t slip into conspiracy theories, either.
Some of the common complaints we get as a news organization have to do with the op-ed page, and it comes from both sides. Why would you run that cartoon or that column? “That cartoon was too liberal.” “That columnist is too conservative.”
We often think that if enough people are upset on either side of the political spectrum, then the page is just about right.
It’s almost impossible to browbeat someone into changing their attitudes, but it is possible to alter our behaviors so we look at things more logically.
See how it feels to turn off social media for a week. Read an article you might not normally read. Listen to a speech from someone from an opposing political party. You might surprise yourself.