The year 2016 has been a strange and trying one. Month after month, people from different time zones woke up to shocking headlines and tragic events. There was very little room to breathe as discourses became more intense on social media feeds. Facebook was under scrutiny for tolerating fake news and messaging wars that trapped people in a narrow information base.
Through user-centric algorithms, social media creators have inadvertently created social bubbles and echo chambers that are making people lonelier. The algorithm will work its magic by getting to know you, what you like to read, share and talk about so that your news feed will only show content that already appeals to you. So frankly, it is the user who creates the echo chamber after all.
The Bubble We Created
Doesn’t sound too harmless, right? On the surface, it seemed logical and convenient – until politics entered the picture. Users with a particular political leaning only ended up seeing content that they already agree with and saw very little of those that dissented and disagreed. This has constructed an “echo chamber,” a social bubble where you can safeguard your long-held convictions and mute those who will ever try to challenge you.
The parallel of this effect in contemporary society is equally troubling. We are social beings, but we group ourselves based on certain characteristics, knowing that it would be more convenient and less stressful. In the real world, we deliberately avoid opportunities to engage with people who might see life a little differently so we can keep seeing it in our way. That’s just how we are as a species.
Leveraging Content Marketing
But what others see as a polarising weapon that will eventually destroy society, marketers see opportunities. While most brands usually stay as neutral as possible to maximise profit share, there are other well-adapted brands that can afford to take risks and get the full support of their digital marketing agency.
Content marketing can be a powerful tool to get people from both the opposite ends of an issue to engage in social discourse. Ads can be powerful influencers, even for just a short time. While ads can be polarising most of the time, marketers can exploit a controversial topic and develop a strategy that can unite an audience in mutual hatred. It sounds daunting and uncertain, but nobody gets to the eye of the storm without suffering through the winds.
Jonathan Bright of the University of Oxford writes that “exposure to a diverse range of viewpoints is crucial for developing well-informed citizen.” But until social media creators answers people’s call for a new algorithm, the burden of escaping social echo chambers falls in ordinary people and those who have the tools to reach out to them.