Describing Your Bubble - A Social Media Analysis Project

Students read and reflect on confirmation bias and the "bubble effect" and then apply it to an analysis of their own social media feed.

Photo of JD Ferries-Rowe
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This multi-day unit introduces students to the concept of confirmation bias and its ability to alter our ability to objectively analyze evidence. It then applies this concept to a student-led analysis of her own social media feed using spreadsheets, formulas (=countif, etc), and graphing.

Day 1: Students will read (or listen as an alternative) to the "Confirmation Bias" chapter of You are Not So Smart (a sample reflection/note taking Reading Worksheet)

Day 2: Discussion over material. This is usually done in a either a Harkness Table format or a fishbowl. Students are asked to think about the chapter overnight and identify the social media feed (Insta, Twitter, etc.) that they would like to use of their Analysis project

Day 3: Students setup a spreadsheet to capture demographic information of the last 50/100 posts on their chosen social media feed. Class may determine which characteristics to assess (Common ones include age, sex, race, location, religion, political philosophy, education level, etc.). Teacher will teach/refresh students on using =Countif and other analytical tools built into spreadsheets to develop charts or graphs summarizing demographic characteristics (depending on time and curricular requirements, this can stretch over multiple days).

Day 4 Social Media Analysis Reflection and Class Discussion

Follow-up: This can take a number of different directions, including moving into psychological triggers (CGP Grey  "This will make you angry" is a good lead-in) or action steps for avoiding confirmation bias - This could include exploring political bias charts for news organizations, the development of one or more RSS feeds by students, or a checklist of questions to ask if your thoughts are being "bias bubble" influenced.

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

David McRaney's podcast and books are a huge contribution to the ideas that shape this lesson as well as experiences in coaching values-based debate and the conversations with students about a number of topics over the years.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Alysha English

JD, this is incredible and so relevant for both students and adults! I LOVE this idea and almost wonder if it's an opportunity for teachers to transparently experience this process alongside students. Have you tried this before? Super curious to hear more about how it went!

Photo of JD Ferries-Rowe

Alysha, various forms of this have been used in our #digcit classes at the high school level for the last few years. The incorporation of actual experience and self-reflection was a real game-changer. I have not done this with adults (although we did successfully do the "distraction journal" exercise from another submission with them ).