Why the Election Results Shocked Us: Our Blue + Red Bubbles

imgres-2imgres-1Hi, my name is Lara and I have been living in an insular blue bubble. Two days ago – on Election Day – I was forced out of my blue bubble and into seeing the strength of a red bubble that propelled Donald Trump into winning the presidential election.

No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, this week left a lot of people asking what happened? How could the polls and the media trajectory been so off? How did we not see this coming?

We’ve been stuck in blue and red filter bubbles.

The media landscape which we live in today has created a perfect storm where we all have got lost in either our progressive blue or conservative red filter bubbles. Within each of our bubbles, we not only heard only the things we wanted to hear, but we also shut out what was happening within the opposing bubbles.

imgresThis year, the media and the Democratic party got sucked into it’s own blue bubble and was unable to see the conversation going on in the red bubble and how that story was emerging, growing and, ultimately, becoming the voice of the people on election day.

How did we get stuck in these insular blue and red filter bubbles?

First of all, in social media we surround ourselves with like-minded people. So we tend to share, hear and support ideas with those who share our own purview. Then, to add insult to injury, the algorithims on social media platforms know us really well and only serve us what we like, so we end up pushed further into our bubbles, not hearing the conversation from the opposing bubble and we can’t see the forest for the trees.

There is danger in these insular bubbles.

Beyond not getting a full picture of the conversation, a horrifying trend is that people believe everything they read in social media. If it has an article attached it must be fact, right? Wrong!images-1

{Here I join colleague Erin Reilly – USC Annenberg Innovation Lab – on her media literacy soapbox.}

We citizens need to become more informed media consumers and only share content that we KNOW is truth.

Please, hold back hitting the share button unless you know it comes from a trusted media source that values fact checking. Anyone can write an article and publish it online. Just because it LOOKS official, does not mean it IS official and truth.

What happened within both our red and blue bubbles was that we did not spread the truth. Ideas, thoughts and propaganda were spread and presented as truth. And the more people who believed it around us – in our bubbles – the more it became true – even if it wasn’t!

In my blue bubble, at one point I almost shared an article about Trump that revealed a shocking and disgusting side of him. Before I did, I checked out the source and I was not 100% sure that it was a trusted source, so I didn’t share it. So glad I didn’t, how embarrassing that may have been.

As I have family who live in the red bubble, I saw some horrible things about Hillary Clinton being shared – not true, not fact checked and painting her as a complete monster. And yet being shared and shared and shared …

This is so dangerous.

How do we fix this … within ALL our filter bubbles?

In social media, remember that YOU are a broadcaster, so what kind of news broadcaster do you want to be? If you want to be a trusted news source, only share content that comes from a source you KNOW is trusted, fact checked and accurate.

Is this more work? Yes, but if we want to be an informed society and be broadcasters, we need to take the time to research. Don’t share content that claims to be fact without taking the time to ensure it comes from a trusted source. If that’s too much for you, then just broadcast pictures of your adorable dog.

The future of political campaigns

Hopefully, in the future, political campaigns will attach more value to social data than polls. Hopefully candidates – and the media – will dive into their audience – in this case, the entire American populace – to see what stories and momentum are growing outside their own insular filter bubbles.

How? Join all bubbles. Listen. Analyze what people want, not based on just numbers but based on social and psychological motivations, fears, etc. That’s how you’ll really get to know what the American people want and get a more accurate pulse on the heart of the populace.

What bubble have you been living in?

images-5Be aware and challenge yourself to look outside your filter bubbles, question what is presented as truth and watch what you share! 


Want to learn more about media literacy?  Check out these resources National Association for Media Literacy Education and CyberWise