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Cover Image © Dean Drobot

What News Are You Consuming?

When was the last time you consumed media “outside of your filter bubble” (meaning: something that someone you ideologically disagree with reads or watches)? If you’re like most people, your answer is probably along the lines of, “Not lately.” That isn’t a bad thing, but that polarization also isn’t good either.

I am fascinated by the tribes we build for ourselves as a society, but I also like encouraging the blending of those tribes so that we all grow as people.

I would like to share a bit with you about the (very noticeable) “Media Consumption Rift” in the US and challenge you at the end of this post to try something outside of your norm.

Let’s begin.

 

(Most) Media is Polarizing by Design

The first thing I want to get out of the way upfront is that most media is intentionally created to appeal to a certain side of the Liberal-to-Conservative ideological spectrum. Regardless of what many popular new outlets will claim, impartial reporting is an extremely rare find.

At the end of the day, these are business after all. They have their target audiences, and have to promote things in alignment with the values of their viewership – otherwise, they run the risk of appealing to no one. I would also like to think that they are a bit reflective of the leanings of their employees as well.

And this isn’t new. That intentional “side-picking” hasn’t changed for years!

 

News Outlet “Appeal” is Entrenched & Likely Unchanging

Here’s a look at how a study on Audience Profiles & Media Habits from Pew Research Center in 2014 designated the ideological placement of news sources based on their survey results.

 

A chart depicting the polarized ideology of different news sources - showing divided filter bubbles.

And here’s an update to that same visual from a similar (ongoing) study conducted in 2019.

 

A chart depicting the polarized ideology of different news sources - showing divided filter bubbles.

Aside from the changing of a few names, nothing really moved.

Again – this isn’t anything new. If a news outlet leaned one way 5 or 6 years ago, chances are it hasn’t changed its stance over that period. And that staying power can have interesting effects.

 

Filter Bubbles and Tribes Form from this Consumption

This is from that same 2019 study…

 

A chart depicting the polarized ideology of different news sources - showing divided filter bubbles.

Let’s be honest, what the visual above is showing is probably true even outside of “political and election news” coverage.

If that is the case, think about what that means: 1/5 of people who consume news from certain ideological sources – from either side of the ideological spectrum – ONLY consume news sources that appeal to that ideology. That can be… no… that IS terrifying.

What if both sides of information disagree? What if they are working off of a seemingly completely different set of facts? What if one side refuses to hear the other? What if disinformation is sometimes intentionally spread on either side of our news sources?

 

A chart depicting the polarized ideology of different news sources - showing divided filter bubbles.

Oh.. wait… That already happens.

 

Presenting Everything Another Way…

And this is from a different source (in the spirit of this post).

A chart depicting the polarized ideology of different news sources - showing divided filter bubbles.

Regardless of WHO cuts the data, chances are you will clearly see our sources of information are divided somehow.

This brings me to the challenge I was going to issue to you that I mentioned earlier.

 

Your Challenge: Hold Up “The Mirror”

If you had to HONESTLY assess yourself, where do you fall? Are you in that 1/5 of people that I mentioned? And understand, I’m not talking about your intentions. I am saying “based on your actual news consumption…”

No judgment if you are, but I would like to point something out.

Right now – in 2020, going into 2021 — going into a major US holiday focused on giving thanks and being grateful — people refuse to listen to each other. This is especially true if that person doesn’t hold similar views to you (for some).

Well, a broadening of our horizons can’t happen in a world where we don’t ever willingly step outside of our filter bubbles.

Said another way, “If you do not first try to understand someone, you can’t justly say that their ‘not understanding you’ bothers you.”

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Stephen R. Covey – (Habit #5 from) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

In a world where VERY BAD THINGS are happening on a daily basis, I have to think that most of it is rooted in our inability (and unwillingness) to empathize with each other.

Not to be preachy (haha – hope I’m not there already), but…

I AM CHALLENGING YOU to try consuming news from “the other side” of your ideological value system once or twice a week.

That is it.

Read/listen/watch two different sides of the same issue. Try to see the motivations, concerns, and fears of the other side.

The only result that can come from this is that you develop a TRULY “more informed” perspective on a matter. Not in the sense of “you may know more about something (which you may actually learn more)” – but in terms of “you now know about an angle that you may not have considered & you acknowledge some people hold that view”.

Your mind can change. Your attitude can grow one way or the other. BUT — you’ll ultimately do that based on a more informed view, and your filter bubble will grow to be more inclusive.

Speaking of that, before I forget – here’s a solid book recommendation on the topic of “Filter Bubbles” from this guy…

I will hush my mouth now.

Peace, and thanks for reading.

 

The soundtrack for this post provided by…

 Image Credits:
– Cover Image © Dean Drobot (Shutterstock)
– Body Images 1 – 4 © PEW RESEARCH CENTER
– Body Image 5 © AllSides.com

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