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The online echo chamber may be a myth — at least on Facebook

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A study of Facebook users finds that while people are more likely to pay attention to information from close friends, they actually get more information from distant contacts. This information challenges previous ideas of an "online echo chamber."

Facebook Information Sharing
Facebook Information Sharing

For years, the "online echo chamber" has been a bit of a truism. According to the authors of books like The Filter Bubble and, the web makes it easy to find only information you're already interested in, removing unexpected and conflicting stories from the mix. But does going online really lead people to limit their information intake? Researchers at the University of Michigan have run a study that discovered that while people on Facebook are more likely to look at links or pictures shared by close friends, they actually get far more information from distant contacts, many of whom share things that users otherwise wouldn't have seen. This is because of the nature of friends lists, which usually include a few central friends and many passing acquaintances.

Information from the study itself is available on Facebook; if you're interested in how this fits into the larger field of internet studies, you can take a look at this Slate article, which compares it to earlier sociological work on "weak ties" and explains how the methodology of this test — which used a control and experimental group rather than just observing users' actions — makes it particularly significant.