Are We Just “Preaching to the Choir” on Social Media?

As tired as we are of hearing about it, we cannot go on to any form of social media without seeing something about politics. We read these links that friends share, or at the very least glance at them and continue to scroll—but in the back of our heads perhaps we agree with them.

If we look at our network on social media, how many people do you overlap with on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc? Chances are you have at least a few people that you follow on all platforms. Despite the fact that we think we have so many followers and friends on these platforms we have to think back to the earlier part of the semester where we learned about the different type of social media users—there are people that “live” on the social media platform, and make it their home by sharing, commenting, posting new statuses; and then there are people who just visit, maybe just leaving a small train of Facebook “reactions” behind—but that is how they treat the platform. Because our friends and followers is a specific amount (but can fluctuate), the likelihood of us seeing the same accounts post over and over is high. So what?

In chapter 9 of Humphrey’s text, they claim “people are more likely to form social ties with those who are like them on some dimension” (156). Okay, sure. If you like someone you are a little more likely to follow that person on social media. We all have those moments that we met our best friend’s cousin at a barbeque last summer and after the party they added you on Facebook—you liked them enough, and they were similar enough to you, that you felt comfortable adding them to your social network. So now on a platform like Facebook, you have a network of friends from all over the place, but have you ever seen the same “Tasty” article, or newest political issue being shared multiple times on your newsfeed by people not even in the same friend group? I have. As I said before, Humphrey claims that we often are friends with likeminded people on our social media platforms, we practice homophily. Which in Humphrey’s words is “the tendency to form homophilous ties means that we have close ties with people who think and act a lot like we do” (156). Humphrey says because we as human beings naturally practice homophily, this is the reason “why when you sign online you may see five people who have chose to share the same point of view on the latest news scandal. Homophily means that we often end up “preaching to the choir” on social media” (156).

I went on my Facebook as I wrote this blog to see if I could find any instances where people from totally different friend groups “liked” or “shared” the same thing. And this is what I found:

 

 

In this picture two guys I know shared the same GQ video. One of the guys I graduated high school with, and one I worked with when I used to lifeguard. Both different ages, different friend groups, different everything—the only similar thing is that they grew up in two towns that are right next to each other—so the chances of them having someone in common in their closer network is possible. Regardless as to whether or not they do have a common connection aside from me, they still shared the same video. This is because in my network of friends, mine tend to lean more towards the left wing, and since we are all somewhat like-minded, the likelihood of content being shared increases. This is the case for many people on my Facebook.

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This picture is a screenshot of a similar instance. Except one girl I went to high school with but she was a year below me and we were not that close, and the other girl is a friend I worked with at summer. They both shared the Today Show’s video of Lady Gaga. Similar to the guys, they have similar views but their only common connection is myself. We are in some ways all one network, and are all connected, even though we may not know each other directly.

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The last instance I noticed was on the sponsored page by Lulu Lemon, over twenty girls I know liked the page, but I never did despite the fact that I have owned Lulu, my network on Facebook was a large enough “liker” of the page to suggest it to me through a sponsored ad.

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Overall I think that Humphrey proves a good point. Despite the fact that we think we have so many different kinds of followers, friends, and perhaps acquaintances on Facebook, the chances are you have something in common—we are attracted to those who are like us. I think it is important that we keep this in mind. We see the same people posting over and over, chances are is that our newsfeed is filled daily by the same group of people in our friend network. It can be a good thing that we always have that one friend who posts dog or cat videos every day, but we also have to remember with more critical things like politics, our social feeds are a bunch of likeminded bubbles–and we have to make sure we pop them by extending our knowledge beyond our feed.

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10 thoughts on “Are We Just “Preaching to the Choir” on Social Media?

  1. This is an interesting topic that I never really paid much attention to. I know that I have chosen the friends on my social platforms but never considered this as choosing the content that I see. When I accept a friend request I am accepting a set of opinions as well. While all my friends on social platforms share me as a common denominator, I don’t think this is a huge factor as to why I see similar content shared. I think the internet has a way of connecting all users even if you don’t personally know them. When I see two people share the same content, it is probably because that content is trending for all users, not just those two friends. So those two friends that shared it, are a select subset of the millions of others who have also shared it- I am just seeing it from these specific connections. Our social media connections are small bubbles and environments that live inside a much larger sphere.

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  2. I definitely agree with you that all of our followers and friends on social media overlap. I see the same instances on my Facebook page that you pointed out in your post. What is interesting to me is the web of users that make up our social media. This web is made up of people whom I have interacted with in some way or another in my life and while we are all different and come from different places, we all share similar opinions in the Facebook sphere. The people that my friends are friends with make their way into my social media feed by tagging my friends in comments and our circle of “friends” turns into the bubble that we call the world of social media.

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  3. I would totally agree that a lot of our friends and followers overlap. And, we most definitely have friends who we don’t have things in common with at all or who are from different places with different mind sets. The election showed that VERY clearly. But, for the most part we share many of the same ideas / opinions with our friends. I can say that people will add me or I will add them because we’ve had something in common.

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  4. I agree with you to some extent. I believe that with Twitter and Instagram, who we follow depends on our similarities. However, I’ve personally noticed that with Facebook, the majority of my friends depend on our jobs, hometown, or family make up. Though these are similarities, there are forced similarities. Scrolling through my Facebook since the beginning of the election season, I see more people that I disagree with appearing and voicing their opinions. However, I manipulated my Twitter and Instagram so that I only follow people that I agree with. Maybe I have this experience because I grew up in a conservative town, added many of my Facebook friends during high school, and feel the need to keep them on my friends list due to growing up with them.

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  5. You definitely make a great point in that we must “pop our bubbles” of like-mindedness, especially in terms of politics. Our views are simply reinforced further and further with each new Facebook post that we agree with. Often times, when I see a political post that makes me angry, I look at the person’s profile, get angry that their views are so different from mine, and if I don’t know them well I simply hide their posts from my feed. While I do so, I know that I am consciously shutting out another person’s view but I do it to avoid my own frustration. Granted, I do not do this with every post that I don’t agree with and it’s usually radical views, but I use my social media settings to passively let out my aggression.

    Your point about multiple people sharing the same video is interesting as well, because whenever I see tons of people on my feed share the same video, regardless of nature, I always find myself watching it simply out of curiosity of staying on the same page as my network. Overall, if it weren’t for my Facebook friends sharing posts and videos, I’m not sure what content I would look at on my own outside of influence from my networks.

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  6. I could not relate to this more. From the Superbowl to political news the amount of new content posted seems to never end. However, what I also found interesting was how frequently the same content was shared over and over again. I went to a very small high school in a small town about 4.5 hours east of Pittsburgh that was rural and unfortunately lacking in diversity. Whenever I log onto Facebook I see a significant amount of the same content shared by those I went to high school with and it has become quite frustrating to see so often that I have begun to remove these content sharers as friends. However, many of my friends made at Pitt are also frequent sharers from cute dog videos to political articles, and even those that are not in the same friend group but both go to Pitt have shared the same post on a number of occasions. When I see these moments I feel encouraged and proud that even though they do not know each other, they share the same view that also aligns with mine. I feel more connected to each of them. I never thought to analyze this but as you mentioned in the article, this practice absolutely aligns with what Humphrey’s was stating regarding how we align with those who think and act as we do. It is such a simple and everyday practice, logging onto Facebook and yet a great analysis and connection to Humphrey’s!

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  7. You make a great observation. With Facebook sharing, I see not only the shared interests of my “friends” but also how I choose my “friends”. I see a pattern develop with my connections. Even certain “friends”, who have absolutely no other connection to each other besides their mutual attachment to me, will have shared beliefs, expressions, and interests. Facebook and other social media allows people to connect through cyber communities. However, with this capability, we should expose ourselves to more than our own view of the world. An advantage of Facebook should be the exposure to news, opinions, and interests that foster communication and expand the mind. With millions of people on the Internet, we have the capability to learn from our differences with others.

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  8. I agree completely that we are more likely to be friends with people who are similar to us. For one, I believe that we filter who we are friends with online for these reasons. For instance, I know a lot of people who went on unfollowing sprees post-election. This made their online friend circle more tapered to their political interests. Facebook also does a good job doing this too filtering content you would enjoy to the top of your feed.

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  9. This is a concept I have been thinking about a lot recently. During the election season, I was one of those people who unfriended and hid anything I didn’t agree with, but now I have found myself in a left-leaning echo chamber. I am very unhappy with this development because I don’t only want to get the news that best fits my friends’ (and my own) biases; I want to get the whole picture. When we only follow those who are like us we don’t get the whole story and end up radicalized and terrifying.

    For the last few weeks I have been working to add some diversity back into my social media so I can help those who don’t have the whole story learn it.

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  10. I was noticing this exact concept a few weeks ago when I shared the same video of two dachshund puppies on Facebook as a girl I had only met in passing. Now that I know we are both interested in pet memes, I find myself consulting her Facebook page for content on a somewhat regular basis. This leads me to the question, if two people on social media are seemingly similar, will this connection translate to a real-life friendship? It seems as though it happens often enough with online dating, so bridging that gap between friends should be no different. However, outside discussing puppies and similar tastes in comedy, I wonder if a sustainable bond could be formed.

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