People are submerged in a sea of digital information thanks to the development of digital communication technology, and they are unduly reliant on their cellphones, social media, and the internet. People have a great lot of freedom in this process when it comes to selecting the informational content, and the audience only selects material that they find fascinating and entertaining. Other concepts and information are rejected or disregarded while topics are selected from the large amount of knowledge. This kind of information dissemination environment is called information cocoon, “information cocoon” was first proposed by Prof. Sunstein of Harvard Law School in his book “Information Utopia – How People Produce Knowledge” published in 2006(Zhang et al., 2023). Long-term, the populace will encase itself in the cocoon like a pupa silkworm. People will only hear viewpoints and ideas expressed in this atmosphere that are similar to their own. An echo chamber is a setting where comparable information is repeated and reinforced.
Information enclaves can be detrimental because they impair people’s capacity to analyze complicated problems critically and objectively. Information cocoons can result in highly biased thinking, as well as the polarization of societies as a result of people becoming more and more committed to their own opinions and less and less receptive to opposing viewpoints. Breaking the information cocoon has a significant social value that is good for each person’s thinking and cognition, as well as having a positive effect on society’s overall development and the democratic system’s smooth operation.
What is the information cocoon’s mechanism?
This problem is frequently linked to social media algorithms, which use customization algorithms to suggest information to users that fits their tastes based on their past actions, preferences, and opinions. Information bubbles are produced when consumers are exposed to more and more information that supports their opinions. The New Internet’s core code is fairly straightforward. The most recent iteration of Internet filters tries to deduce what you enjoy based on what you’ve really done or what other people who share your interests like. They are prediction engines that continually develop and improve hypotheses about who you are, what you will do next, and what you want. Together, these engines produce what I refer to as “filter bubbles,” or individual informational worlds, for each of us that profoundly alters how we come into contact with concepts and knowledge. A technique known as a “filter bubble” makes the user sift through the information they are given. Future technological developments may improve the “filter bubble” as a technology, but the “information cocoon” increases the personalized nature of users’ access to information as a result of the quick expansion in the volume of online information as a cognitive bias(Zhang et al., 2023).
The inevitability of the existence of an information cocoon
People’s information behavior is now more network dependent, “fragmented,” and selective in nature due to the information explosion and information overload in the age of big data. We can filter information thanks to digital technology, but it also encourages us to share information with those who share our interests. Additionally, because human reason is finite, the amount of knowledge available on the Internet causes cognitive dissonance, which is a concern for the general public(Yuan & Wang, 2022). The public attempts to address these issues by shunning opinions that diverge too much from our own. Everyone now gets access to their preferred information thanks to the widespread use of the internet. The public must make trade-offs due to the abundance of news available because it is freely available. Everyone’s world would be what they wanted it to be, not what it should be, if they just chose to read what they wanted to read(Sunstein, 2006).
The Dangers of Information Cocooning
There are many major risks associated with the establishment and endurance of information cocoons. Cognitive bias and information filtering, social estrangement and polarization, diminished democracy and public participation, exposure to misinformation and rumors, deterioration of critical thinking and information literacy, escalation of social inequalities, and challenges to the veracity of scientific consensus are just a few of the problems that these factors can cause. These are all overtly negative long-term repercussions of information cocooning on individuals and on subjective views at the social level.
Information cocooning may even cause depression in elderly people, according to studies. Some retired seniors lack access to diverse information due to the algorithms of short-form video platforms that push narrowly focused information to them. This disconnects from society also limits their exposure to new perspectives and experiences, which heightens their feelings of loneliness and depression. Additionally, the way that young and old people consume content differs. While many older individuals participate in and distribute deceptive video content linked to rumors, emotional and moral difficulties, and health, younger people frequently choose short, real-time films showcasing trending news, online “hot topics,” and other popular content. Constantly being exposed to bad news, inaccurate information, and harsh comments on social media may make emotional suffering worse and make depression more likely(He et al., 2023).
Additionally, some academics have stated that there isn’t any conclusive evidence to back the idea of whether or not information cocoons and filter bubbles are harmful. Despite major worries about filter bubbles, there is now no solid empirical proof that such a problem exists, according to the essay “Should we worry about filter bubbles?” by Zuiderveen, 2016. They draw attention to the fact that, for the majority of people, tailored news material is still not their main source of information. However, they caution that if customization technology takes over as the main information source, it could cause issues for democracies(Zuiderveen Borgesius et al., 2016).
How to break the information cocoon
In the context of emergencies from Liu & Zhou, 2022, a four-dimensional method to overcoming the “information cocoon effect” is discussed. The strategy emphasizes government regulation, using technology for effective governance, maximizing the information ontology, and advancing societal ideals. It highlights the significance of enhancing public information preferences and suggests tactics to boost reading interest among the populace as well as enhance the distribution of emergency information. Additionally, the importance of technology like big data and the requirement for self-regulation of online content. The authors place a strong emphasis on encouraging algorithmic fairness and transparency in the release of publicly available information. The strategy includes tighter monitoring of information publishers, better standards and guidelines for information transmission, and stronger collaboration with social organizations. It also includes increased government regulation of algorithmic technology. Additionally, it highlights how crucial it is to preserve a positive public image, enhance information literacy, and improve social ties(Liu & Zhou, 2022).
For ourselves, the public should break out of their comfort zone and receive diverse information. To combat information cocooning, it is important to seek out different sources of information and absorb different perspectives. This can help broaden perspectives and improve critical thinking skills. Breaking the information cocoon promotes open-minded searching and guides the recipient to process conflicting information to develop critical thinking. Therefore, breaking the information cocoon has a positive impact on us.
- Cass Sunstein. (2023). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cass_Sunstein&oldid=1177928623
- Flew, T., Martin, F., & Suzor, N. (2019). Internet regulation as media policy: Rethinking the question of digital communication platform governance. Journal of Digital Media & Policy, 10(1), 33–50. https://doi.org/10.1386/jdmp.10.1.33_1
- He, Y., Liu, D., Guo, R., & Guo, S. (2023). Information Cocoons on Short Video Platforms and Its Influence on Depression Among the Elderly: A Moderated Mediation Model. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 16, 2469–2480. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S415832
- jifeng shi (Director). (2022, October 20). Information cocoon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOsDXGpWDDU
- Liu, W., & Zhou, W. (2022). Research on Solving Path of Negative Effect of “Information Cocoon Room” in Emergency. Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society, 2022, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1155/2022/1326579
- Monisight (Director). (2023, April 26). Are we living in information cocoons societies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFbIvMkJSGQ
- Sunstein, C. R. (2006). Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. Oxford University Press. https://books.google.com.au/books?id=HGRFP7aBxbkC
- Yuan, X., & Wang, C. (2022). Research on the formation mechanism of information cocoon and individual differences among researchers based on information ecology theory. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 1055798. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1055798
- Zhang, X., Cai, Y., Zhao, M., & Zhou, Y. (2023). Generation Mechanism of “Information Cocoons” of Network Users: An Evolutionary Game Approach. Systems, 11(8), Article 8. https://doi.org/10.3390/systems11080414
- Zuiderveen Borgesius, F. J., Trilling, D., Möller, J., Bodó, B., De Vreese, C. H., & Helberger, N. (2016). Should we worry about filter bubbles? Internet Policy Review, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.14763/2016.1.401