Social media comfort bubbles need to pop

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Social media users are being urged to burst out of their comfort bubbles and engage with people with differing opinions.

Leading UK psychologist Professor Uta Frith, best known for her work on autism at University College London, says in an uncertain world, it's important to be open to a diverse set of views.

She says social media sites, like Twitter, provide a "false sense of certainty" for its users by implying that everyone thinks the same way they do.

Speaking ahead of a speech at next week's British Science Festival, Prof Frith said: "Social media has changed the world, and in lots of ways for the better. But we must be more aware of the pitfalls of living in a digital world as well. By shielding ourselves from contradictory views, and reacting to the emotional opinions of others, we are putting ourselves at risk.

"Because we are such intensely social creatures, we seek the comfort of being with like-minded people. We have a need to belong. We are pleased if we find people who like the same things we like. We are happy to have our prejudices confirmed.

"The problem is that the same information is repeated over and over again and remains in the bubble without spreading to other bubbles, and little new information gets in."

The professor will be addressing the science festival in Brighton as incoming president of the British Science Association, which is hosting the event.

Prof Frith admits she's a "confirmed Twitterfan", who is bewitched by the "comfort of bubbles".

But she says experiencing diversity, different expertise, interests and experiences is crucial.

"My three top tips would be to look for multiple independent sources, neither only trusting gut instinct nor cold reason alone, and strive for diversity in all walks of life to break us out of bubbles we have created on social networks."

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