Media convergence is a reality we encounter every day, and it’s been that way for nearly three decades. Since the dawn of digitalization, different media forms began to blend. Now, it’s hard to tell if the news we’re reading is from a newspaper, an app, or broadcasted on TV. Media has evolved and diversified. You might be watching a show on your TV, but it’s not necessarily through traditional cable; it could be a streaming service or a custom-built FAST channel.

No matter your preferences, interests, or even political leanings, there’s content tailored just for you. 

It’s like we each have our own personalized media cocoon.Yet, while our media has converged, our society seems more splintered than ever.It’s ironic – the unity in media has, in a way, driven division in our world.

Media Bubbles

The Media Bubble Phenomenon is all around us and I shall provide a few examples.

Personalized Social Media Feeds: Social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have algorithms that are designed to show users content they’re more likely to engage with, based on their past behaviors. This can result in a narrowed view of world events or topics.

Search Engine Personalization: Google and other search engines personalize search results based on user behavior and data. This means two people can search the same term and receive different results, reinforcing existing beliefs.

Echo Chambers on Platforms like YouTube: Recommendations on platforms like YouTube are based on previously viewed content, leading users down specific content rabbit holes that affirm existing beliefs.

Partisan News Outlets: Some media outlets cater to specific political ideologies, furthering the divide between audiences of different political orientations. For instance, Fox News and MSNBC in the U.S. have distinctly different audiences and angles.

Meme Culture and Confirmation Bias: The rapid spread of memes on platforms like Twitter and Reddit can quickly solidify false beliefs or skewed perspectives due to the repetitive and affirming nature of meme culture.

Ideological Blocs: We witness more and more people making a conscious choice re. what they consume based on their ideological affiliation. Streaming services like Netflix can discover such nuances and serve you the content that is closer to your political leaning.

Complacency or Collaboration?

It’s easy for us to settle into our cozy media bubbles, finding comfort in tailored content that reinforces our beliefs. But as a society, we must tread cautiously. When we compartmentalize ourselves into isolated opinion chambers, we risk losing the shared stories that hold us together. Without a collective understanding or agreement on the core values that unify us, we can quickly transform from allies into adversaries, clashing over the very essence of what defines our greatness and our vision of a harmonious coexistence.

Hence, here are a few ideas and suggestions on how to bring us closer together again – even ifs it only inch by inch. It is still better than drifting more apart.

How Media Can Help Overcome the Bubble Problem:

Diverse Viewpoint Recommendations: Platforms can make a conscious effort to intersperse content from different perspectives in users’ feeds. This allows users to get a holistic view of a topic. Something that is particular well-suited for public broadcasters who should typically provide a wider variety of perspectives and opinion – and especially protect minorities.

Fact-Checking: Many platforms have started integrating fact-checking tools. This can be extended and made more robust, thereby ensuring users are presented with factual information. This is only relevant when consumers are aware that fact-checking is important and that their news sources are indeed sticking to facts rather than some conspiracy theories or lies. Hence, the next point is important.

Educational Campaigns about Media Literacy: Media outlets can run campaigns educating the public about media literacy, critical thinking, and recognizing biases. This is something that should be done across all media: no matter if its meant to entertain or inform.

Transparency in Algorithms: Companies can be more transparent about how their algorithms work, so users are aware of how and why they’re seeing certain content. Here we have a long way to go. Sharing algorithm and data is a no-go for many media outlets. But eventually we might need to force them through regulations to be more transparent, especially in the light of AI.

Neutral News Platforms: Encourage and promote the establishment of news platforms dedicated to unbiased, fact-based reporting. Platforms that actively avoid sensationalism and strive for neutral representation can provide a balanced view. I have been advocating this idea since some time – specifically how public broadcasters can reinvent themselves and define their mission as a nurturing and neutral environment for news and content.

Collaboration with Third-party Organizations: Media platforms can collaborate with neutral, third-party organizations to ensure their content is balanced and fair.

Encouraging Deliberate Consumption: Encouraging users to actively seek out different perspectives and not just passively consume what’s on their feed. Here we might ask again about algorithm and potentially force media businesses to ensure they have some percentage of their content ‘allocated’ to audiences to encourage watching content outside of their bubble.

Interactive Platforms: Create platforms where people of differing opinions can engage in constructive dialogues. This will foster understanding and diminish the polarization that’s fostered by isolated echo chambers. While echo chambers and interaction are closely related, we still need exchange of thoughts. But we must come back to a more civil debate and moderation must do its part in that.

By integrating such measures and fostering a culture of open-mindedness and critical thinking, the media can play an instrumental role in breaking down the walls of the information bubbles we find ourselves trapped within.

We all yearn for a world where each of us is embraced and honored for who we are. It’s why many of us retreat into our personal bubbles, seeking that familiar comfort and sense of belonging. It’s a natural inclination.

Yet, as humans, we’re also hardwired to connect, to collaborate, and to forge bonds of love and compassion. Embracing these instincts means stepping beyond our boundaries, venturing out of our comfort zones.

Now is the moment for all of us to take that brave step forward.

#tvnews #mediabubble #futureofmedia