Avoiding the Echo Chamber about Echo Chambers

Guess, Andrew; Nyhan, Brendan; Lyons, Benjamin; Reifler, Jason

Is the expansion of media choice good for democracy? Not according
to critics who decry “echo chambers,” “filter bubbles,” and “information cocoons” — the highly polarized, ideologically homogeneous forms of news and media consumption that are facilitated by technology. However, these claims overstate the prevalence and severity of these patterns, which at most capture the experience of a minority of the public.
In this review essay, we summarize the most important findings of the academic literature about where and how Americans get news and information. We focus particular attention on how much consumers engage in selective exposure to media content that is consistent with their political beliefs and the extent to which this pattern is exacerbated by technology. As we show, the data frequently contradict or at least complicate the “echo chambers” narrative, which has ironically been amplified and distorted in a kind of echo chamber effect.