Research Essay Final Draft

This work supports the claim that the presence of political echo chambers on social media is relatively limited, while still affirming their pervasive impact on American society due to their ability to spread misinformation. I will showcase this by examining the evolution of social media organizations as news resources, the existence of political echo chambers across various platforms, and the current state of social media regulation. 

The rise of social media organizations like Twitter and Facebook has changed the way consumers get their news. Today, political commentators, news organizations, and politicians routinely utilize social media to break the fourth wall. These platforms have become an avenue for them to effectively communicate information to niche audiences and promote their interest. This has prompted many Americans to utilize social media sites as an easy, low-cost way to get their news. However, there is a general societal concern that individuals will restrict themselves to information that aligns with their pre-existing views. In other words, they could fall victim to political echo chambers which in turn will alienate them from the rest of society and further exacerbate the partisan divide within the United States. 

The Pew Research center recently conducted a study that analyzed the increasing role of social media in delivering the news. They found that three out of ten adults regularly get their news from social media (Pew Research Center, 1). This affirms that social media has become a part of many American’s news diets. However, consumers still have a variety of opinions regarding the amount of control social media organizations have over their feeds, the content quality of posts, and the possible biases behind the information they are exposed to.

A majority of Americans think that social media companies have too much control over the content they are exposed to and that their control results in a worse mix of news (Pew Research Center, 1). They also found that Republicans are generally more skeptical of the information they encounter on social media compared to Democrats (Pew Research Center, 1). When asked to elaborate on this, many conservatives said that social media companies favor news organizations that are partisan in nature. These results reveal a substantial degree of skepticism from the American public over the information they see  on social media. However, as stated above, this has not stopped 30% of Americans from using their social media accounts as a current event resource. 

Social media’s evolution as a news resource poses a number of issues that are not present with more traditional news resources. Social media companies allows consumers to access more  news content. Although this can be beneficial, it also has drawbacks. The wide variation in content means that consumers will not be exposed to the same set of facts as they would if they were to read the same local newspaper. Another issue is the absence of fact-checking on a lot of the content that circulates these media platforms. It is important to note that media spin does happen on more traditional news resources like Fox, CNN, The Wall Street Journal and The NY Times. However, instances of blatant falsehoods are hard to come by, which is the norm for a lot of user-generated content on social media. 

However, the most important difference between traditional news resources and news on social media is the consumer experience. Consumers on social media forfeit their control over what information they encounter. They are hand-delivered their news content courtesy of each company’s algorithms that are designed to give consumers a specialized experience. These algorithms subtly takes away the element of choice that is more present in conventional news sources. The lack of consumer control on social media is widely regarded as the main reason for presence of political echo chambers.

There have been several empirical studies on the existence of political echo chambers across social media platforms. Jesse Shore investigated the partisan nature of content that consumers are exposed to on Twitter. She found that “On average, Twitter accounts post more centrist information than they receive in their own timelines, undercutting the prevailing narrative of the social media echo chamber” (Shore, 48). This so-called “narrative” refers to the idea that political echo chambers are consuming American’s social media accounts and pose a threat to our democracy. Jesse argues that a small number of actors have a disproportionate impact on the social media experience, which in turn has lead to an overemphasis on the presence of political echo chambers (48). 

Maggie Koerth-Baker found support for this finding in her research that evaluated the reasons behind partisanship in the United States. She acknowledges that Facebook has become a hub for spreading misinformation, but points out that the number of people that censor themselves to “fake news” is relatively small (1). She says, “In a national sample of about 2,500 Americans, taken during the final weeks of the contentious 2016 presidential campaign, nearly 60 percent of all fake news visits came from the 10 percent of respondents with the most conservative media diets” (Baker, p.1). This begs the question do users care about political echo chambers on social media if they are only impacting a niche group of people?

Apparently, many Americans do. In response to the 2016 election, there was a public outcry for the FCC to regulate social media websites because of the targeted spread of misinformation. According to The Guardian, social media companies like Twitter and Facebook had record instances of “computational propaganda” (Howard and Kollanyi, 1). Interestingly, they found these occurrences happened in states that President Trump won by 2% (1). This reveals that individuals can focus on vulnerable communities and manipulate them by propagating falsehoods. 

The FCC is a regulatory agency that monitors radio, television, and cable (FCC, 1). It is important to note that social media organizations are exempt from the FCC’s jurisdiction because of their unique distinction as technology companies. That being said, an entity can revoke their right to free speech if it is a hazard to the public interest. There are many questions surrounding the potential FCC regulation of different social media accounts. How would the FCC effectively prevent the existence of political echo chambers, the driving force behind the spread of viral misinformation, while not encroaching on American’s right to free speech? 

The answer largely lies within the algorithms embedded in social media company’s codes. These algorithms prioritize posts based on their popularity and relevance to the specific user. The FCC would have to make companies like Facebook and Twitter change their algorithmic code that has allowed them to rise to prominence and generate billions of dollars. It’s not likely that they would willingly do this. 

But what about enacting policy that would focus on the spread of viral misinformation? It is undeniable that “fake news” has a pervasive presence on social media. Scholars attribute this to the existence of political echo chambers. Petter Törnberg found that political echo chambers are the breeding ground of viral misinformation (2). He says, “an echo chamber has the same effect as a dry pile of tinder in the forest; it provides the fuel for an initial small flame, that can spread to larger sticks, branches, trees, to finally engulf the forest” (Törnberg, 2018). 

Vivian Roese wrote a book on the role social media platforms play in the spread of “accidental media hype.” She defines says accidental media hype is “triggered by any kind of deep emotion, not just outrage and protest. Also, they are closely linked to the impact social media have on them, providing the breeding ground for these hypes, and reinforcing them” (Roese, 2018). Ultimately, their findings on political echo chambers and the spread of misinformation support that they are extremely intertwined which has prompted concern from members on both sides of the political aisle. 

In October, Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House Financial Services Committee to discuss a new cryptocurrency called, “libra.” However, many members of Congress took the opportunity to grill him on the potential threat Facebook poses to America’s electoral democracy and national security. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a U.S. representative from New York’s 14th congressional district, asked him about Facebook’s regulatory policy which currently allows politicians to pay Facebook to spread misinformation. She went on to ask whether Facebook would fact check political advertisements. He wasn’t able to give her a clear answer, which caused her to ask if she could hypothetically run ads that falsely claim Republican Congressmen support The Green New Deal. 

After a testy exchange, Mark Zuckerberg eventually conceded that she would “probably” be able to do that. She followed up by asking, “Do you see a potential problem here with the complete lack of fact-checking of political advertisements.” He would not commit to taking down lies and said that it would largely depend on the context in which the political advertisement is posted. This goes to show that even small scale change would require government mandates because heads of social media organizations like Mark Zuckerberg do not want to compromise their profit-seeking motives. 

In conclusion, political echo chambers have a presence on social media, but empirical evidence suggests that their existence is often overemphasized. That being said, it can’t be ignored that social media companies have designed their platforms to show content that appeals to user ideology. Further exacerbating this problem is the complete lack of fact-checking on user-generated content. This is problematic because of the pervasive spread of misinformation and the ability of outside actors to influence the material that shows up on user feeds as demonstrated by the 2016 presidential election. The debate over regulating these platforms will continue to rage on because of the conflict between the public interest and the First Amendment. Ultimately, political echo chambers and the spread of viral misinformation have become a part of the consumer experience on social media platforms and, as demonstrated by the 2016 election, could potentially pose a threat to national security and society at large.

Citations:

Barnhart, B. (2019, August 13). How to Rise Above Social Media Algorithms. Retrieved November 13, 2019, from https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-algorithms/.

Kollanyi, Philip Howard and Bence. “Social Media Companies Must Respond to the Sinister Reality behind Fake News.” The Guardian, Guardian News, and Media, 30 Sept. 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/sep/30/social-media-companies-fake-news-us-election?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other.

Maggie Koerth-Baker. “Media Bubbles Aren’t The Biggest Reason We’re Partisans.” FiveThirtyEight, 8 Oct. 2019,

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/media-bubbles-arent-the-biggest-reason-were-partisans/.

Miller, Claire Cain. “Social Media Deepens Partisan Divides. But Not Always.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Nov. 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/21/upshot/social-media-deepens-partisan-divides-but-not-always.html?smid=fbnytimes&smtyp=cur&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1409232722000&bicmet=1419773522000&fbclid=IwAR2ptqvwqeR68QPcJPjWBvvhCvHz26T5CCsDhh8S8oZJ0AiuWjlhGRGBibc.

Roese, Vivian. “You Won’t Believe How Co-Dependent They Are Or: Media Hype and the Interaction of News Media, Social Media, and the User.” From Media Hype to Twitter Storm, 1st ed., Amsterdam University Press, 2018, pp. 313–332.

Shearer, Elisa, and Elizabeth Grieco. “Americans Are Wary of the Role Social Media Sites Play in Delivering the News.” Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, 2 Oct. 2019, https://www.journalism.org/2019/10/02/americans-are-wary-of-the-role-social-media-sites-play-in-delivering-the-news/.

Shore, Jesse Conan, et al. “Network Structure and Patterns of Information Diversity on Twitter.” Mis Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 849–872. EBSCOhost, doi:10.31235/osf.io/32urj.

The FCC. “What We Do.” Federal Communications Commission, 10 July 2017, https://www.fcc.gov/about-fcc/what-we-do.

Törnberg, Petter. “Echo Chambers and Viral Misinformation: Modeling Fake News as Complex Contagion.” Plos One, vol. 13, no. 9, 20 Sept. 2018, pp. 1–21. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0203958.

(2019, October 23). Retrieved November 13, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G272R50v6ww.


Final Website Reflection

Over the course of the semester, I made several changes to my website. One thing I continually adjusted was my menu layout and menu titles. This was a struggle for me because I wasn’t sure how to categorize some of the class’s content due to the wide variation of topics and assignments. Ultimately, I chose four categories: Extra Credit, Blog Posts, Final Project, and Creative Project. I also revised the order in which the class content appeared on my website. I utilized my Home page as one massive timeline of all my course work. I used the other pages on my site as more specialized timelines. For example, if you click on my Creative Project menu item, you can see every step I took to produce my creative project from the proposal to the final draft. These appear back to back without any unrelated assignments to effectively show my creative project’s evolution. One last change I made was to have my posts show the actual date they were published instead of the predicted reading time. It took me a while to figure this out because the problem was embedded deep within WordPress.

I think my website turned out pretty well. My original goal was to create a platform with a simplistic design that was easy to navigate and visually appealing. I believe that my website accomplishes this to a large extent. I personalized it not to be too flashy. This allows for people to appreciate the actual substance of my posts. I made it easy to navigate so someone could easily find a specific assignment and see where it fit into the overall course. I will say that my website to some extent falls short in terms of the visually appealing aspect. I couldn’t figure out how to remove the category titles at the top of my pages, which was disappointing and very frustrating.

However, I do use a variety of GIFS (as demonstrated above) and images in attempt to compensate for this visual blunder. I will say that making a website is much harder than I thought it would be. I did not think I would encounter as many little problems as I did. An example of this was when my posts did not show their published date. Luckily, I solved this and many other problems I encountered over the course of the semester.

In the future, I plan to use this website to show my WordPress skills and technological expertise. This experience taught me how much work goes into making websites. I feel like sometimes we forget how much thought, time, and programming goes into different forms of digital media that we use daily. It was weird to be on the other side of that but also satisfying to see the long-term result of a semester’s worth of work. The process of making a website also reinforced several of the course concepts. For example, I couldn’t help but think about Murray’s “Four Affordances of the Digital Medium” as I was putting my website together. I also kept thinking about the ways authors present information to consumers. I didn’t realize how much thought goes into planning the viewer experience and anticipating their thought process. This connects to almost every unit we’ve studied like the social media and meme culture units. Ultimately, I’m leaving this class feeling confident about my WordPress abilities and thrilled that I developed a skill that could assist me in a future career path.

Creative Project

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6coD-Z5c3s

Artistic Statement

For my creative project, I conducted four interviews and edited them together using iMovie to show how college students use Twitter and the pervasiveness of political echo chambers on different forms of social media. I wanted to understand my participant’s thoughts on political echo chambers and determine whether their social media accounts resemble political echo chambers. I asked my participants questions about their ideology and their social media accounts, and I put them through an artificial simulation where they had to rank their degree of interest in following various partisan groups, politicians, and commentators. The goal of my creative project was to shed light on how college students use Twitter in terms of news versus entertainment purposes and to see whether political echo chambers exist in my sample.

The main takeaway from my creative project is that almost all my participants don’t use Twitter or other forms of social media to get their news, which effectively nullifies the potentially alienating impact of political echo chambers on social media. However, my participants did express that they are frequently exposed to radical news on social media and their followers/who they follow on Twitter match their political ideology. The questions I asked were intended to highlight the level of consciousness college students have over the political content they are exposed to on social media while still revealing their potential biases. The simulation I put my participants through revealed that ideological preferences play a role in the content people are exposed to on social media. However, ideological preferences were not the sole determiner of whether my participants followed certain accounts. My topic connects well to our course content because it covers a digital medium that is having a monumental impact on politics and American culture at large. My creative project further speaks to the potential implications regarding the cultural impact of political echo chambers on social media and people’s ability to discern between fact and fiction.

Rough Draft of Research Essay

The rise of social media organizations like Twitter and Facebook has changed the way consumers get their news. Today, political commentators, news organizations, and politicians routinely utilize social media to, in essence, break the fourth wall. These platforms have become an avenue for them to effectively communicate information to niche audiences and promote their interest. This has prompted many Americans to utilize social media sites as an easy, low-cost way to get their news. However, there is a general societal concern that individuals will restrict themselves to information that aligns with their pre-existing views. In other words, they could create their own personal echo chambers which in turn will alienate them and further exacerbate the partisan divide within the United States. This work will evaluate the evolution of social media organizations as news resources, the existence of political echo chambers across various platforms, the role of social media algorithms in the creation of echo chambers, the spread of viral misinformation, and the current state of social media regulation.

The Pew Research center recently conducted a study that analyzed the increasing role of social media in delivering the news. They found that three out of ten adults regularly get their news from social media (Pew Research Center, 1). This affirms that social media has become a part of many individual’s news diets. However, consumers still have a variety of opinions regarding the amount of control social media organizations have over their feeds, the quality of the content, and the possible biases behind the information they are exposed to. A majority of Americans feel that social media companies have too much control over the content they are exposed to and 55% of them believe that their control results in a worse mix of news (Pew Research Center, 1). The Pew Research Center also surveyed people from different ideological backgrounds and found that Republicans are generally more skeptical of the information they encounter on social media than Democrats. When asked to elaborate on this, many cited that social media companies favor certain news organizations and tend to present partisan coverage. These findings are invaluable because user-customized content is supposed to be the major appeal of social media. These results reveal a substantial degree of skepticism from the American public, but it evidently has not stopped them from using their social media accounts as current event resources. 

In response to the 2016 election, there has been a public outcry for the FCC to regulate social media websites because of the viral spread of misinformation. According to The Guardian, social media companies like Twitter and Facebook had record instances of “computational propaganda” (Howard and Kollanyi, 1). Interestingly, most of these occurrences happened in states that President Trump won by 2%. This reveals that individuals can target vulnerable communities and ultimately manipulate them by propagating falsehoods. Petter Törnberg offers support for this claim in his book, “Echo Chambers and Viral Misinformation.” He argues that political echo chambers are prone to manipulation from outside forces because of their viral nature. He says, “An echo chamber has the same effect as a dry pile of tinder in the forest; it provides the fuel for an initial small flame, that can spread to larger sticks, branches, trees, to finally engulf the forest” (Törnberg, 2). Many have called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate social media organizations. The FCC is an independent agency that regulates interstate communication mediums like radio, television, and cable (FCC, 1). However, social media websites are exempt from the FCC’s jurisdiction because of their unique distinction as technology companies. Also, there are several 1st Amendment issues when it comes to regulating a person’s speech on social media. That being said, many claim that an entity can revoke their right to free speech if it is a hazard to the public interest. The debate over regulating social media will range on, and while it does, “fake news” will continue to spread. 

Citations:

Kollanyi, Philip Howard and Bence. “Social Media Companies Must Respond to the Sinister Reality behind Fake News.” The Guardian, Guardian News, and Media, 30 Sept. 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/sep/30/social-media-companies-fake-news-us-election?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other.

Shearer, Elisa, and Elizabeth Grieco. “Americans Are Wary of the Role Social Media Sites Play in Delivering the News.” Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, 2 Oct. 2019, https://www.journalism.org/2019/10/02/americans-are-wary-of-the-role-social-media-sites-play-in-delivering-the-news/.

The FCC. “What We Do.” Federal Communications Commission, 10 July 2017, https://www.fcc.gov/about-fcc/what-we-do.

Törnberg, Petter. “Echo Chambers and Viral Misinformation: Modeling Fake News as Complex Contagion.” Plos One, vol. 13, no. 9, 20 Sept. 2018, pp. 1–21. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0203958.

Revised Personal Essay

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for politics and journalism. I largely attribute this to my mom. She was a CNN anchor, which meant that by the transitive property, the news was a staple in my childhood. Any car ride, much to my dismay at the time, was filled with what I referred to as the “tired” voices of National Public Radio. Today, in contrast to my youth, I actively consume the news by choice. My walks to Emory’s campus consist of The NPR Politics Podcast and The Daily. I’ve even had people over to watch political events like the most recent Democratic Debate. It has gotten to the point where my friends have started to refer to me as a “news junkie.” This is not a new term to me because I would use it to describe every member of my family. My family is so politically engaged that our family dinner conversations revolve around current events. My oldest brother, Elliot, was a Political Science Major at the University of Miami, while Connor, my other brother, studied marketing at the University of Southern California and wants to work on political campaigns. Hence, I’ve always been engaged with politics by simply living in my household. However, it wasn’t until this past year that I started to develop my own beliefs and adopt a more active role in my family’s political discussions. 

I attribute this recent evolution to my internship at MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. It was an amazing opportunity where I was able to gain production and journalism experience. I also was ridiculously aware of political current events because one of my jobs was to monitor the stories covered by competitor news programs. Every day, I was exposed to so many different types of stories and viewpoints, which allowed me to expand my knowledge and further develop my own opinions. I would leave 30 Rockefeller Center wanting to engage in political conversations with my family instead of merely listening to what everyone had to say. Before my internship, I couldn’t help but feel insecure about my political knowledge because everyone at the dinner table was seemingly an expert on all things politics. One summer at Morning Joe did not make me an expert on politics, but it did force me to actively engage with the news cycle. This made me more cognizant of political issues and the different news sources people get their information from. I found that many members of my family were not being exposed to a lot of the information presented on conservative news shows. This made me interested in the ideology behind news resources, how they present their content, and its impact on consumer viewpoints. 

I learned quickly that Morning Joe and MSNBC as whole covers stories that cater to a more liberal base. This means that there is an abundance of focus on content about President Donald Trump. When I was working at Morning Joe, I had to make a Twitter so that I could keep up with his activity and the other news of the day. I initially thought that I would solely be following people like President Trump, but instead, I ended up following a wide variety of organizations and people with different agendas and political backgrounds. The assortment of people and groups that I follow on Twitter allowed me to keep up to date on breaking news and effectively do my job. I was surprised by how the news industry is going through a kind of metamorphosis due to the rise of social media platforms and the wide-spread participation of political figures, journalists, and political commentators. I remember thinking that social media is making it even easier for people like my family to limit the news they are exposed to. 

Today, my Twitter account has become one of my main news resources. Because of the circumstances for which I created my Twitter, my feed is 99% politics. This situation doesn’t apply to most users feeds, however, the Pew Research center found that a growing number of Americans use social media platforms as news resources. I find this intriguing because who you follow on Twitter determines the information you see. For example, I would identify myself as a Democrat. Nothing is stopping me from creating my own echo chamber by only following liberal news sources that reaffirm my political beliefs. However, my Twitter feed does not reflect my political beliefs because I had to follow a wide array of news sources. In addition to several liberal news sources, like CNN and Morning Joe, I also follow a wide variety of conservative news shows such as Fox and Friends and conservative political commentators like Tomi Lahren. Thus, I would argue that my Twitter feed is not an echo chamber because I am not only exposed to beliefs that reaffirm my own. Although there are times when Tomi Lahren’s opinions upset me, I continue to follow her because it is important to listen to what conservative entities are saying, and honestly I didn’t have a choice when I was working. However, many Americans don’t like to listen to opinions they disagree with and they do have a choice regarding what information they follow.

In conclusion, my upbringing and experience at Morning Joe have had a monumental impact on my interest in politics. My family made political conversations a part of everyday life, which prepared me for my time at Morning Joe. While there, I gained invaluable knowledge of the news cycle and a greater perspective on where people get their news. This experience made me re-evaluate where my family members get their news and the impact this has had on their beliefs. The experience also exposed me to the partisan nature of different news resources and the newfound dependence on social media as a news resource. This had made me question the potentially restrictive impact social media could have on our society. Ultimately, I believe that my personal experiences have made me interested in the degree to which social media echo chambers exist and the possible impact that they are having on our society’s current political climate. 

Creative Project Rough Draft

For my creative project, I’m going to interview four individuals about their social media usage with a focus on Twitter. My objective is to get a gage on the information they are exposed to on social media and whether they restrict themselves to new sources that align with their pre-existing beliefs. In other words, I want to see if their social media accounts are political echo chambers. I also want to find out their thoughts on social media as a news resource, the degree to which they think political echo chambers exist, and their ideas for possible solutions to the spread of political misinformation through echo chambers. I have selected four Emory students with different Twitter backgrounds and varying degrees of interest in politics. This is a crucial piece of my project because it is important to recognize that not all consumers use Twitter and other forms of social media for the same purpose and share the same level of interest in politics. Hence, I tried to incorporate four different kinds of users in terms of why they got Twitter and their political ideology.

Below are descriptions of my participants, their Twitter accounts, and some answers to my preliminary questions. Following their descriptions, I have a list of questions I intend to ask them. After I interview them, I will conduct a lightning round where I ask participants to rank their level of interest in following specific Twitter accounts. I need to do this because some of my participants don’t follow that many political figures on social media. The lightning round will combat this by putting my participants in a hypothetical situation where they will construct their own political social media network. I then will evaluate their network’s level of partisanship and see if it resembles an echo chamber and aligns with the participant’s political ideology. It is important to note that many Americans do not follow a vast array of political figures. Therefore, I would argue that my sample accurately represents many members of the American population.

Participants

Natalie Frazier

Year: Junior

Handle: @natalie_fraz19

Major: Women and Gender Studies

Degree of Interest in Politics (1-5, 1 being not interested, 5 being very interested): 4

When did you get a Twitter: 2014

Reason for getting Twitter: Entertainment/Memes

Notable people/groups followed: Barack Obama, Anderson Cooper 360, Fallon Tonight

Katherine Heyde

Year: Junior

Handle: @KatherineHeyde

Major: Math and Economics

Degree of Interest in Politics (1-5, 1 being not interested, 5 being very interested): 3

When did you get a Twitter: 2015

Reason for getting Twitter: Entertainment/Engagement in Pop Culture

Notable people/groups followed: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders

Noah Cosimano

Year: Junior

Handle: @noah_cw

Major: Political Psychology and Media

Degree of Interest in Politics (1-5, 1 being not interested, 5 being very interested): 5

When did you get a Twitter: 2015

Reason for getting Twitter: Politics/Current Events

Notable people/groups followed: Joe Biden, GOP Teens, Stephen Colbert

Holly Shan

Year: Junior

Handle: hollyshan_

Major: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Degree of Interest in Politics (1-5, 1 being not interested, 5 being very interested): 2

When did you get a Twitter: 2015

Notable people/groups followed: N/A, does not follow any political accounts

Questions

Where would you place yourself on the political spectrum (1-10, 1 being extremely conservative, 10 being extremely liberal)?

Would you say the people you follow on Twitter reflect your political ideology? Why or why not?

Would you say a majority of your followers belong to particular political ideology?

Would you consider your account to be a political echo chamber? Why or why not?

Are you every exposed to radical news on social media and if so does it make you uncomfortable?

Are you happy with the level of control you have over the content you are exposed to over social media? Why or why not?

Do you think a majority of people restrict themselves to political echo chambers?

Do you think political echo chambers pose a threat to our democracy?

Would you consider Twitter or other forms of social media a viable news resource? Why or why not?

Should the federal government play a role in regulating misinformation spread in political echo chambers?

Do you think our generations usage of Twitter and other forms of social media can improve levels of political engagement?

Excluding Twitter, where do you get your news from?

Lightning Round of Questions

I will list political figures, commentators, and organizations and ask participants to tell me their degree of interest on a scale from 1 (being not interested) to 5 (being very interested) in following them.

Note: answers will be left out if they do not know that individual/group is.    

List of accounts:

The NRA

Donald Trump

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Tomi Lahren

Tucker Carlson

Nancy Pelosi

Rachel Meadow

Anderson Cooper

Bill O’Reilly

Mitch McConnell

Fox and Friends

Morning Joe

CNN

Ann Coulter

Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Safety In America

Creative Project Proposal

At this point, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do for my creative project. One idea I had was to conduct a series of interviews asking people about the news content they are exposed to on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. I would ask them questions like do you use social media as a news resource, what organizations/people do you follow, and where would you place yourself and the people you interact with on the political spectrum? Following these preliminary questions, I want to investigate their thoughts on political echo chambers and if they feel that they restrict themselves to opinions that align with their own. This part is going to be tricky because I must get a gage on the information they actually encounter and the information they want to encounter on social media. First, I would examine the political figures that they engage with on social media platforms. If there is not enough content in the people or groups they follow, then I plan to list an ideologically diverse group of political figures, commentators, and news organizations. I will then ask my participants to rank their level of interest in following them. Some examples would be President Donald Trump, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, CNN, and Fox News. This way I could discover the degree to which they limit themselves to partisan information and how much they want to. I would present my findings in a video using iMovie, which is the part of the creative project that I’m most excited about. I want to take any opportunity I can to gain more experience editing and working with graphics.

Regarding a timeline, I plan to get my interviews done by November 15th. This will give me plenty of time to edit the content and meet the required deadline. I have already lined up participants with a diverse array of political viewpoints, varying levels of interest in politics, and different degrees of social media use. I think it’s so important that my five or six participants are diverse to avoid sampling bias. When I put together the video, I plan to present the best moments from my interviews as a highlight reel to keep viewers engaged. Ultimately, I’m excited about this project and hope I’m able to produce an insightful piece on social media echo chambers.