Say bye to bias

Staff Editorial: The opinion of the El Vaquero staff members

Say+bye+to+bias

 

In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned against the formation of political parties, yet evidently, our nation has progressively rejected his advice. In recent years, we have become more politically polarized, and it is translated in the way we consume media.

It is now easy to filter the news we consume using the internet and social media. According to a 2021 Pew Research study, 86 percent of US adults say that they get their news from a smartphone, computer or tablet. However, social media uses algorithms to find news that caters to our preferences, limiting our perspective on different issues. With over 70 percent of Americans owning a social media account, as stated by a 2021 Statistica report, we as students of Irvine High School, upholding our IHS values, must overcome pre-existing biases to differentiate between personalized and objective news.

Our news is often preselected for us based on our search and click history. A 2016 study by digital researchers reported that articles found through social media, as well as search engines, showed higher ideological segregation scores than articles found by direct browsing on an online news page. In addition, it was recently exposed by former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen that Facebook uses algorithms to amplify misinformation to maximize its growth. She continues, saying that it resulted in “more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat.” It should also be noted that Facebook owns sites like Instagram, but similar algorithms exist on sites like YouTube and TikTok. Because of these sites, millions of Americans are not being exposed to the truth and instead only encounter information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their beliefs. Therefore, students should avoid using social media to stay informed, as catered news is not impartial news, to get a more holistic view on issues.

Another threat to our access to objective news are echo chambers, which are defined as environments where a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered. According to a 2021 PNAS research article, online users show a tendency to favor information adhering to their beliefs and join groups formed around a shared narrative. This confirmation bias is dangerous as it results in entire groups moving towards extreme positions, which can lead to violent events. We must expose ourselves to multiple viewpoints from a variety of sources before coming to our own conclusions to ensure that we are not aligning events to our own narrative. Thus, students should be more mindful of how they interact with news found online and how they discuss politics with those around them.

Although accessing news online, especially on social media, is easy and convenient, it does not always provide accurate, impartial information. As journalist Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” As seen with the January 6 insurrection, rewriting facts to fit one’s narrative has the potential to harm and devastate our country. Filter bubbles and echo chambers further allow people to adhere to their biases and ignore actual truth. As emerging adults and responsible citizens, we must be aware of our own biases and take steps to overcome it. Political parties, as George Washington predicted, are splitting our nation apart, and while they are not necessarily bad, they should not dictate our news consumption.

As our nation and world continues to become more polarized, it is imperative that Irvine High students uphold their social responsibility and form their own opinions through research from a variety of sources. We must become more efficient in recognizing bias and avoid filtering our news to fit our preconceived ideas. Understanding and consuming news is important in upholding our democracy. A reliable source to look for unbiased information would be Ad Fontes Media, Inc.’s Media Bias Chart, which rates media sources in terms of political bias and reliability. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”