The Most Dangerous Part of Social Media

The most dangerous part of social media is this: you don’t have to see, hear, or participate in anything you don’t agree with.

You have total choice. You have millions of podcasts, millions of blogs, billions of web pages. You have the option to subscribe to only the things you agree with, only the points of view that make you happy.

This has the net effect of making your point of view more extreme, and you may not realize it.

The great advantage of a time when there were three television channels was that opposing views HAD to be heard, even if some networks and anchors may have had subtle biases – at the very least, the other viewpoint was heard, if somewhat disparagingly. Today, you don’t have to be exposed to contrary ideas at all.

The only way to combat self-selected extremism is to willingly participate in social media outlets that are NOT in alignment with your point of view. Read news sources that you’re not comfortable or familiar with, like the BBC, Sydney Morning Herald, Jerusalem Post, Al Jazeera, Globe and Mail, Google News, and others. Listen to and subscribe to podcasts that are from differing perspectives. If you’re a liberal Democrat, tune into conservative talk radio from time to time. If you’re a conservative Republican, hit up a few of the liberal talk radio shows.

Turn off the inner voice if you can, or at least ask it to check in after the program was over. If you’re truly gifted as a powerful thinker, see if you can take any argument presented and legitimately see and agree with different sides of it. “If I were a Conservative, this issue would totally make sense because…”

The only way to prevent becoming the sort of extremist that in the past you’d detest is to willfully pull yourself back to the center by considering and integrating opposing viewpoints. If you don’t, soon you’ll find that viewpoints from the fringe that advocate willfully harming other people seem… reasonable. If that’s not who you want to be, only you can drag yourself back to the middle.


If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!


Want to read more like this from ? Get daily updates now:


Get my book!

Subscribe to my free newsletter!


  • http://mediadriving.com/ Jay Moonah

    Chris, I think what you're proposing is valuable advice in principle, but as I see it the only people who are likely to truly take it to heart are those are open minded to begin with. The vast majority of people will seek out media that agrees with the views they already have. Big media has always played on this and social media is just doing what it does — fragmenting the discussion further.

    What you're describing is not really a danger of social media, it's a danger of the human condition. We like to feel safe, and a feeling of safety comes in part from a feeling that our beliefs are right. People who don't mind feeling uncomfortable now and then are the ones who will learn the most, unfortunately they are not and never will be the majority.

  • http://mediadriving.com/ Jay Moonah

    Chris, I think what you're proposing is valuable advice in principle, but as I see it the only people who are likely to truly take it to heart are those are open minded to begin with. The vast majority of people will seek out media that agrees with the views they already have. Big media has always played on this and social media is just doing what it does — fragmenting the discussion further.

    What you're describing is not really a danger of social media, it's a danger of the human condition. We like to feel safe, and a feeling of safety comes in part from a feeling that our beliefs are right. People who don't mind feeling uncomfortable now and then are the ones who will learn the most, unfortunately they are not and never will be the majority.

  • http://mediadriving.com/ Jay Moonah

    Chris, I think what you're proposing is valuable advice in principle, but as I see it the only people who are likely to truly take it to heart are those are open minded to begin with. The vast majority of people will seek out media that agrees with the views they already have. Big media has always played on this and social media is just doing what it does — fragmenting the discussion further.

    What you're describing is not really a danger of social media, it's a danger of the human condition. We like to feel safe, and a feeling of safety comes in part from a feeling that our beliefs are right. People who don't mind feeling uncomfortable now and then are the ones who will learn the most, unfortunately they are not and never will be the majority.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    True, though I'd argue that the nearly unlimited choice of social media channels means you never even have to accidentally encounter an opposing viewpoint. That's where social media diverges from mainstream media.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    True, though I'd argue that the nearly unlimited choice of social media channels means you never even have to accidentally encounter an opposing viewpoint. That's where social media diverges from mainstream media.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    True, though I'd argue that the nearly unlimited choice of social media channels means you never even have to accidentally encounter an opposing viewpoint. That's where social media diverges from mainstream media.

  • http://mediadriving.com/ Jay Moonah

    Right, _IF_ you're getting most/all your information from social media, which almost no one is other than us 'fishbowl' folks… and in fact I'd bet that most people who are heavily involved in SM are likely BIGGER consumers of a variety of mainstream media than the general pop. I know for my part I almost never trust one source only for anything factual, and part of the reason for that is BECAUSE I read blogs.

  • http://mediadriving.com/ Jay Moonah

    Right, _IF_ you're getting most/all your information from social media, which almost no one is other than us 'fishbowl' folks… and in fact I'd bet that most people who are heavily involved in SM are likely BIGGER consumers of a variety of mainstream media than the general pop. I know for my part I almost never trust one source only for anything factual, and part of the reason for that is BECAUSE I read blogs.

  • http://mediadriving.com/ Jay Moonah

    Right, _IF_ you're getting most/all your information from social media, which almost no one is other than us 'fishbowl' folks… and in fact I'd bet that most people who are heavily involved in SM are likely BIGGER consumers of a variety of mainstream media than the general pop. I know for my part I almost never trust one source only for anything factual, and part of the reason for that is BECAUSE I read blogs.

  • http://mediadriving.com/ Jay Moonah

    Chris, I think what you're proposing is valuable advice in principle, but as I see it the only people who are likely to truly take it to heart are those are open minded to begin with. The vast majority of people will seek out media that agrees with the views they already have. Big media has always played on this and social media is just doing what it does — fragmenting the discussion further.

    What you're describing is not really a danger of social media, it's a danger of the human condition. We like to feel safe, and a feeling of safety comes in part from a feeling that our beliefs are right. People who don't mind feeling uncomfortable now and then are the ones who will learn the most, unfortunately they are not and never will be the majority.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    True, though I'd argue that the nearly unlimited choice of social media channels means you never even have to accidentally encounter an opposing viewpoint. That's where social media diverges from mainstream media.

  • http://mediadriving.com/ Jay Moonah

    Right, _IF_ you're getting most/all your information from social media, which almost no one is other than us 'fishbowl' folks… and in fact I'd bet that most people who are heavily involved in SM are likely BIGGER consumers of a variety of mainstream media than the general pop. I know for my part I almost never trust one source only for anything factual, and part of the reason for that is BECAUSE I read blogs.

  • http://socialsteel.com Social News

    I totally agree with reading alternate news sources. Getting news from BBC makes more sense to me than Fox news or CNN. It's more likely they will have an unbiased opinion.

  • http://socialsteel.com Social News

    I totally agree with reading alternate news sources. Getting news from BBC makes more sense to me than Fox news or CNN. It's more likely they will have an unbiased opinion.

  • http://socialsteel.com Social News

    I totally agree with reading alternate news sources. Getting news from BBC makes more sense to me than Fox news or CNN. It's more likely they will have an unbiased opinion.

  • http://socialsteel.com Social News

    I totally agree with reading alternate news sources. Getting news from BBC makes more sense to me than Fox news or CNN. It's more likely they will have an unbiased opinion.

  • http://jaymoonah.com/ Jay Moonah from Wild Apricot

    Chris, I think what you're proposing is valuable advice in principle, but as I see it the only people who are likely to truly take it to heart are those are open minded to begin with. The vast majority of people will seek out media that agrees with the views they already have. Big media has always played on this and social media is just doing what it does — fragmenting the discussion further.

    What you're describing is not really a danger of social media, it's a danger of the human condition. We like to feel safe, and a feeling of safety comes in part from a feeling that our beliefs are right. People who don't mind feeling uncomfortable now and then are the ones who will learn the most, unfortunately they are not and never will be the majority.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    True, though I'd argue that the nearly unlimited choice of social media channels means you never even have to accidentally encounter an opposing viewpoint. That's where social media diverges from mainstream media.

  • http://jaymoonah.com/ Jay Moonah from Wild Apricot

    Right, _IF_ you're getting most/all your information from social media, which almost no one is other than us 'fishbowl' folks… and in fact I'd bet that most people who are heavily involved in SM are likely BIGGER consumers of a variety of mainstream media than the general pop. I know for my part I almost never trust one source only for anything factual, and part of the reason for that is BECAUSE I read blogs.

  • http://socialsteel.com Social News

    I totally agree with reading alternate news sources. Getting news from BBC makes more sense to me than Fox news or CNN. It's more likely they will have an unbiased opinion.

  • http://www.cloudid.com david usher

    Well put Chris. Niche is an amazing thing that brings like minded people together, but it also allows them to stay their, in the comfort zone and not have to look, listen and experience new ideas. The Long Tail isnt just for marketing and selling. Its relates to ideas as well.

  • http://www.cloudid.com david usher

    Well put Chris. Niche is an amazing thing that brings like minded people together, but it also allows them to stay their, in the comfort zone and not have to look, listen and experience new ideas. The Long Tail isnt just for marketing and selling. Its relates to ideas as well.

  • http://www.cloudid.com david usher

    Well put Chris. Niche is an amazing thing that brings like minded people together, but it also allows them to stay their, in the comfort zone and not have to look, listen and experience new ideas. The Long Tail isnt just for marketing and selling. Its relates to ideas as well.

  • http://www.cloudid.com david usher

    Well put Chris. Niche is an amazing thing that brings like minded people together, but it also allows them to stay their, in the comfort zone and not have to look, listen and experience new ideas. The Long Tail isnt just for marketing and selling. Its relates to ideas as well.

  • http://www.cloudid.com david usher

    Well put Chris. Niche is an amazing thing that brings like minded people together, but it also allows them to stay their, in the comfort zone and not have to look, listen and experience new ideas. The Long Tail isnt just for marketing and selling. Its relates to ideas as well.

  • http://www.cloudid.com david usher

    Well put Chris. Niche is an amazing thing that brings like minded people together, but it also allows them to stay their, in the comfort zone and not have to look, listen and experience new ideas. The Long Tail isnt just for marketing and selling. Its relates to ideas as well.

  • John Baronian

    It would be interesting to see if the behavior you warn against here has given impetus to the more factional political arena we experience today.  Any thoughts how this might be measured?

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      I’m not sure how you’d measure that at all, but it’s a great thought.