Confirmation Bias, Social Media, and the Politics of Division

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” —Matthew 7:3

In the age of social media, we see a great deal of confirmation bias, that is, we tend to look for and follow those who affirm our beliefs and discredit those who oppose them. Some of us want to “win the argument” by being on the “side of truth” whenever there is conflict. Or, even worse, we avoid those with whom we disagree in favor of people who offer shallow platitudes along the same lines of our own insular thinking.

We widen the chasms between us at a time when we need to be building bridges. We either stand at the edge of our respective sides and throw “truth bombs” at each other. Or, even worse, we hide in enclaves of mutual self-assurance, unable to deal with the vitriol that arises in conflict these days.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” —Proverbs 27:17

Community is the big loser here. As beings created in the image of God, we all have far more in common than we have in differences. The opportunities for olive branches and detente are lost. We are far too in love with our own views to consider the perspective of others. It’s easy now to “dislike” something on Facebook. It’s simple to run down the opinions of others and elevate our own.

We can have thousands of Facebook “friends” and yet “follow” very few of them. We have an overload of information but very little investment. We are “experts” on problems that are thousands of literal and figurative miles from our lives.

Maybe I am overly nostalgic, but I don’t recall this being so large of a problem before social media became a thing. Perhaps we could point to talk-radio or other means of negative collectivism, but the sheer magnitude of Facebook’s effect on our lives is unprecedented.

I do not offer these observations as someone who is immune to them. I have been on both sides of many battles and have also found myself with plenty of confirmation bias. But I repent. I welcome you to disagree with me, especially in person. I welcome you to point out my weak spots, how else am I to grow?

And I do not want to throw “truth bombs” any more.

“But, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” —Ephesians 4:15

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