Wearing blinkers

The news media took over the referendum, the two were made for each other. But whereas it was banner headlines for the tabloids, reinforcing opinions and prejudices, social media worked in a different way.

Katharine Viner in a long article (‘How technology disrupted the truth’, 12th July) in the Guardian focuses on the social media ‘filter bubble’ and the way Facebook is designed to ‘give us more of what they think we want … our own personal stream has been invisibly curated to re-inforce our existing beliefs’.

Viner as a Remain supporter couldn’t, the morning after, find any comment on Facebook from anyone happy with the result. And they were out there – with a vengeance. Many of us I know had the same experience. Despair and tears.

Social media also reinforced opinions and prejudices, but in a subtler and entirely private way. Compare the tabloids: everyday I could check the headlines on news-stands if I chose. And still do. But no-one but me knew what my Facebook pages were saying – unless I chose to share.

Many Remain supporters were too much inside their own bubble, protected from the anger and resentment in town and country. They underestimated what was driving the Leave vote deep down. In that way social media may have had a significant influence on the referendum outcome.

None of this justifies the way the tabloids set out to inflame, distort and misdlead. But they were tapping into something at a deeper level which many social media users just didn’t understand.

Two separate worlds. They didn’t connect. Do they now?

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