Algorithms – And America’s Polarization – Irvington’s Voice

Let’s face it, algorithms are polarizing America. Hours and hours of scrolling, liking, interacting on social media provide information that these platforms can use as part of their data banks. As algorithms bring us into our own isolated bubbles, we are further and further apart. Social media feeds you content based on your interests and beliefs, resulting in intense polarization and addiction.

Because social media algorithms match your interests, you receive content that you agree with or find compelling. According to the Institute of Entrepreneurship Development, “Algorithms are designed to match a user’s interests, based on your posts which the system assumes the user will like. Once users show greater interest in something , they will always be directed to other similar things.

The constant assertion of the “rightness of your ideas” is unhealthy and can be addictive. This is defined as confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of your existing beliefs, and it gives your brain a dopamine and adrenaline rush. Algorithms create a “perfect” world in which we only see the things we want to see, making it impossible to see different ideas. Social media platforms are using these feelings of safety and comfort to their advantage to promote feelings of addiction to their app, especially due to the pandemic, which is causing us to spend so much time on these apps.

While algorithms can help make social media a comforting experience, they also shape your opinions and make your decisions. The information obtained from you ends up being used to calculate future recommendations. Think about the media you have consumed recently: did you choose to watch them or were you “recommended” to watch them? How much content was filtered out of your search results that you never saw? Or even dating apps, which use algorithms to decide who you could spend the rest of your life with. Although on some level you still have basic free will over your choices, it should be noted that algorithms make many of our decisions every day.

Being surrounded by ideas that are already aligned with your beliefs prevents exposure to contrasting perspectives. Your ideologies can evolve to extremes, constantly bouncing around an echo chamber. This is particularly evident through the politicization of social media. It is incredibly easy for political parties to use social media to spread their message and interact with the public, leading them to become more emotionally invested in political issues. Politicians often create parasocial relationships, opening up their lives to show voters what they look like. This builds trust with their audience as they humanize and connect effectively with their constituents who already feel a deep sense of loyalty. Brown University did a study where they found that negative feelings toward members of the other party versus one’s own party increased by an average of 4.8 points per decade. Lack of respect between members of opposing parties leads to hostility and less compromise between individuals. People become convinced that their way of thinking is superior, which is dangerous because it reduces political discussion.

Although polarization can be driven by algorithms, some studies claim that the correlation is not so strong. A Duke study found that being exposed to ideas you disagree with online can also cause polarization, which means algorithms aren’t necessarily responsible for polarization, but media. social in general are. These pathetic messages can be delivered with just a few clicks, and the more people who see what you have to say, the more weight your argument has. In this way, emotionally appealing messages can also contribute to polarization.

Yet algorithms govern so many different parts of our daily lives, and it’s impossible to ignore the effects they have on people. From media consumption to dating apps, every aspect of our lives has some kind of algorithm behind it, and it will continue to do so in the future. But, while they can make our lives easier, it’s important to be mindful and make your own decisions when it matters.

Sharon D. Cole