The tunnel vision trap: why we must always question what we see on social media

Is it too easy to depend on deceptively consumable social media posts for our daily news content?

Annie-Rose Edwards
11th March 2024
Image: WikimediaCommons_TodayTesting
It’s fair to say that in the UK, where 98% of adults between 16 and 24 own their very own smartphone, it’s considered common knowledge that our Facebook, X or Instagram feeds aren’t the endless voids of randomised information that we once imagined they were. Most of us have been taught at some point or another that the posts we digest during our daily social media scroll in fact consist of carefully curated content, coded through various algorithms and data systems before being neatly delivered to our screens.

So, if we all know recommendation algorithms shape our social media experience, why do we absorb the news we see without much of a second thought? Today, the sheer volume of information thrown our way, from every TV and radio station to every paper and magazine article, not to mention each university reading and seminar we take in, leaves us with little time or energy to question how reliable it really is. In the rush to stay up to date, the truth is that we tend to prioritise speed over accuracy when it comes to the information we consume online and overlook the extent to which multifaceted news stories are often condensed into attention-grabbing headlines. The superficial nature of social media also leads us further into such a tunnel vision trap. With likes and shares so often serving as measures of credibility, the popularity of content increasingly takes precedence over accuracy.

Even more dangerous still is the algorithm-driven nature of social media, which enables platforms to filter information so that it perfectly aligns with each user’s own beliefs and preconceptions. This personalized curation of news only creates echo chambers that reinforce our existing opinions, limit our exposure to different perspectives and ultimately perpetuate a cycle of confirmation bias. Through social media, we accept and normalise a narrow, isolated view of the world without even realising it and so it’s no surprise that political opinions today are so radically polarised and a cause of increasing cause of conflict and tension.

So, thanks to the unparalleled accessibility to information that social media provides, the likes of YouTube and TikTok have now understandably become our main sources of news. With this, however, it’s crucial to remember the need to separate the fact from the fiction and approach these platforms and the information they give us with a highly discerning eye. Social media has the power to entertain and inform us, but only if we question, fact-check, and always seek out alternative perspectives to counteract the inherent pitfalls of these platforms as a news source. Only then can we truly avoid falling prey to the tunnel vision trap of social media that threatens to distort our understanding of the world.

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