Is Facebook Making Us Polarized?

There have always been people who run from the unknown, and others, toward it.

Research mentioned in the following Fast Company piece suggests that social media has the effect of reinforcing prior beliefs instead of prompting an exploration of other beliefs or ideas.

"Facebook Is Making Us Polarized and Predictable:"

In short, people are much more likely to share something that accords with something they already think. They also prefer stories that come from someone within their peer group. 'Our findings show that users mostly tend to select and share content related to a specific narrative and to ignore the rest,' the paper says. 'In particular, we show that social homogeneity is the primary driver of content diffusion, and one frequent result is the formation of homogeneous, polarized clusters.'

"The Big Sort," indeed. Even when the self selection isn't voluntary, Daniel Simons pointed out four years ago at the festival just how easily our existing narratives fail us

I've wondered recently if Art Without Walls or Creative Capital, stalwart supporters of the IdeaFestival, might bring an artist to the festival who explores this very issue in a new and fresh way. There certainly has been no shortage of illuminating projects over the years, from "under-aware" technology that foils retail surveillance of shoppers to the grand shadow-casting installations of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Of course there is another class of creatives who might put before us differing opinions to consider, who might bring us into contact with other tribes.


Running toward the unknown is what the IdeaFestival does best. The importance of new ideas to an increasingly innovation-driven economy can't be overstated. But in a universe of possibility, not knowing, too, is important. Don't fill in the blanks so quickly. Live in the question for a while.

The wide net the festival casts to bring leaders, thinkers and doers to the Louisville each year is the reason I love it so much. And sitting as I do off stage posting, tweeting and otherwise sharing ideas that I hear, I'm often temporarily brought low by the unexpected connection.

It's a wonderful feeling.

This is what wrote some time ago about what I've learned at the IdeaFestival.

I've learned from many people at the IdeaFestival. From Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I learned history will occasionally deliver overwhelming news from the clear blue. It just happens. I learned from Jane McGonigal that games can be used to make a better reality rather than as a means of escape. I learned from Teller that knowing secrets behind the curtain didn't diminish the joy of staring slack jawed at dancing golden spheres. I learned from Burt Rutan that with supreme imagination and determination, we can trip to space in safety and return in comfort. Someday, I'll do that. The elfin and poised Daniel Tammet argued during the most recent IdeaFestival that when we think in similes and puns, we're thinking not unlike a savant. I learned that his prodigious mathematical and language abilities are not so far removed from yours or mine.
I learned that there isn't a mind to waste, that when these explorers, these visionaries, these westward-movers describe new truths, their language touches - just touches - a single whole that in some sense will always be beyond reach. It's not because what's real is unknowable. On the contrary. It's because what's real is mind-bendingly big, and the mirrored snap, crackle and pop that occurs in my brain one week every fall in Louisville is merely a vanishing, if thrilling, approximation. I've learned, most importantly, that the festival is not an "either, or" after all.
It's about "this too."

Stay curious™