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Many equipped with smartphones do not possess the emotional intelligence needed to suspend judgements and self-reflect.

MANY only see what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear. That sums up people’s social media habits these days.

All you need to do is take a hard look at your Facebook or Twitter feed.

FALLING PREY TO PREJUDICES

The topics that normally capture the attention of the average Malaysian today reveal an immeasurable breadth of biases.

It does not matter what they are on about; anything and everything can set them off.

From politics to personalities, there are many “hooks” enabling people to stop their offline routines and air their judgements online under the guise of “caring about society”.

But if we really think about it, there is nothing actually “caring” about condemning an athlete’s sportswear, making mocking remarks about an ex-politician’s misfortunes, or bullying others for having a different point of view.

Negativity is just that: negativity, whether it is warranted or not. And no amount of justifying can change this truth. If anything, negativity is the result of us always going off-tangent with our narratives on the Internet.

How many of us actually read the articles we “help” share on our social media pages? Do we really want people to know what we stand for, or are we, in truth, victims of sensational headlines and satirical exaggerations?

Many of us would blame it on algorithm, forgetting that it is our unconscious interests and behaviours governing our clicks and likes that set it all into motion in the first place.

It is time for us to realise that there is no problem out there. We are the problem.

TRAPPED IN OUR BUBBLES

In this digitally saturated age, the problem is not the lack of quality information out there, but rather society’s inability to practise self-restraint, and thus, self-censorship.

This largely stems from the fact that many equipped with smartphones do not possess the emotional intelligence needed to suspend judgements and self-reflect.

It appears that I am not alone — as highlighted by the recent publication online of a long-read called ‘Escape the Echo Chamber’ (one of the very rare times positivity had shown up).

Written by C Thi Nguyen, an assistant professor at Utah Valley University specialising in epistemology (the study of knowledge), the article started off as direct as one can ever be: “Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs.”

It continued: “Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making — wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of like-minded friends and web pages and social media feeds.”

Nguyen then provided a definitive difference between the terms ‘epistemic bubble’ and ‘echo chamber’. When we don’t hear people from the other side we are said to be trapped in an ‘epistemic bubble’ and when we don’t trust people from the other side we are said to be in an ‘echo chamber’.

Having read through the entire article, I cannot help but wonder if the writer had Malaysia in mind when he wrote it.

Have we all become so bewitched by our biases that we want them mirrored in all aspects of our lives?

I wonder if most Malaysians today are (depending on our individual levels of hidden resentment) walking and talking bubbles or chambers.

If indeed we walk and talk bubble or chambers, it’s time for us to challenge ourselves.

In the words of author/poet Anurag Shourie: “A half-truth is even more dangerous than a lie. A lie, you can detect at some stage, but half a truth is sure to mislead you for long.”

The writer is News Editor (Weekend/Probe/Special Report) New Straits Times

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