Advocacy in The Age of The Social Media Echo Chamber

The “echo chamber,” a metaphor describing the phenomenon where a person’s own ideological beliefs are reinforced and reverberated among the like-minded people and news sources they surround themselves with, continues to impact our political landscape. Understanding it and our role in it is critical to protecting our nation’s governance and our journalistic integrity. 

The Origin of The Echo Chamber

The first instance where this term was used was to explain public sentiment and policy around the decision to pursue the war in Iraq. The term made a large resurgence during the 2016 presidential election, where the popularity of social media radically polarized voters. Hillary Clinton supporters for example were shocked by her loss due to the inaccurate gauge of public opinion represented in their social media feeds. 

Social Media’s Role in Polarization

Social media has advanced and compounded the existence of echo chambers. Each platform has an algorithm that highlights posts on a user’s feed that, based on their activity, aligns with their preferences. Therefore, many users interact with a curated bubble that reinforces what they already like and believe. This means we’re all losing sense of broader social sentiment. For those working in the social advocacy space, this can present a problem in changing the hearts and minds of people with differing viewpoints. 

Social Media’s Role in Social Change

However, according to Pew research from 2016, “20% of social media users say they’ve modified their stance on a social or political issue because of material they saw on social media, and 17% say social media has helped to change their views about a specific political candidate.” The respondents indicated that their opinions were changed on major social justice issues including the Black Lives Matter movement and gun control, as well as their stance on who they voted for in the election. This data presents hope for organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy and social justice. 

What Does This Mean for Your Organization? 

For those looking to shift sentiment on an issue beyond their like minded followers, it is certainly worthwhile to take extra efforts to expand their following to new groups. Additionally, organizations should encourage healthy, open dialogue among their follower base to ensure the sharing of opinions and attract a diverse audience. In order to gauge a more accurate pulse on social sentiment, advocacy organizations should monitor a spectrum of news sources and advocate accordingly.

Through a strategic and thoughtful PR and social media strategy, organizations like TASC can help you make social change possible online. For more information about The TASC Group’s past work, take a look at our case studies to learn more about the impact of our advocacy work on behalf of our clients. Some specific examples include the team’s engagement with the Bronx Rising Initiative, the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary and the consortium of asbestos attorneys litigating against Johnson & Johnson.

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