WSJ.com [includes a 4.24 min video which is free to watch] – Mathematicians are teaming up with political scientists to create models of how social media divides us, and results suggest at least one popular solution might actually make the problem worse. “Americans are more polarized than ever—at least by some measures. A growing body of research suggests that social media is accelerating the trend, and many political scientists worry it’s tearing our country apart. It isn’t clear how to solve the problem. And new research suggests that one often-proposed solution—exposing users on the platforms to more content from the other side—might actually be making things worse, because of how social media amplifies extreme opinions. With an election looming, Congressional investigations highlighting the far-reaching power of Facebook and Google over what we see and hear, and long-term trends in polarization pointing toward an ever-more-fractured America, the question of what role social-media giants play in dividing or uniting us has taken on new urgency, says Christopher Bail, a professor of sociology at Duke University who studies the impact of social media on polarization. If social media seems particularly infuriating lately, it’s possible that it’s as much about the way it shapes our perception of what’s going on as it is about the reality of the viewpoints and behavior of our fellow Americans. It’s also possible that highly partisan media—something that was common at the birth of our nation but which the U.S. had a relative respite from during the age of broadcast media—is an unavoidable consequence of America’s foundational right to free expression. Technology only magnifies this natural effect of democracy. One of the challenges of studying polarization is defining polarization…”
See also Why Social Media Makes Us More Polarized and How to Fix It – Research shows it’s the influencers, not the networks themselves, that amplify differences between us.