In Is the internet really a blessing for democracy, Cass Sunstein argues that the ability for users to filter their experiences online poses a threat to democracy because by allowing users to choose exactly what is in their feed, it is taking away from their understanding of other points of view, which is crucial to tackling social issues and understanding one another.
Sunstein begins by arguing that free speech actions help promote understanding of different points of view by explaining the laws of free speech in public places. Sunstein argues that intermediaries, like television and radio shows, help in exposing people to a variety of issues and views, promoting a diverse set of views for the audience. With the ability to filter to only hearing one point of view, many issues are becoming more polarized due to the fact that groups of people are hearing solely their own point of view, creating a gap in their understanding of other opinions on the issues (Sunstein calls this group polarization). Interestingly, Sunstein says that the internet is a breeding ground for this type of polarization because members of these groups can communicate everyday online without interruption from those with other points of view (and even if the information they are deliberating is wrong). Overall, Sunstein seeks to present the dangers, both individually and societally, of a fragmented online communications market, and thus calls for shared experiences to be had due to their ability to ease social interactions, create shared goals and promote enjoyment of common things.
I find Sunstein’s argument both important and relatable. Without noticing, I probably surround myself with similar types of information, either based off of what my peers are talking about or what is on my social media page. It makes sense that we may be becoming more polarized on issues due to only hearing one kind of information, especially in an age where reading multiple news sources is not the top priority for many. However, I do see the value in understanding multiple points of view of an issue, and we can all do this by making simple changes in our habits like reading different news sources throughout the week or by exploring the internet beyond just what is promoted to us.