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Conservative Utahn Explores Political Media Bubbles

She calls herself a right-wing conservative, but Janalee Tobias immersed herself in liberal social media this fall. Now she says she understands better how the political climate has gotten so tense.

Tobias agreed to be part of an experiment of the British newspaper, The Guardian. She watched the presidential election through the eyes of a liberal, relying on news from a left-wing Facebook feed for days at a time.

“So here it is…,” she says, logging onto Facebook under her “liberal Democrat” identity. “Oh, the worst part: My profile picture is Hillary Clinton. Oh, my gosh.”

The South Jordan activist had already found her home in the recent election as part of Second Amendment Supporters for Trump, Mormons for Trump and Utah Women for Trump. Tobias was one of five conservatives getting news from liberal sites, while five liberals had a right-wing feed. 

“So, Common Dreams,” Tobias says. “So here's what George Lakoff explains why it is very important to keep repeating what a loser Donald Trump is.”

Like the others in The Guardian experiment, Tobias was shocked and sometimes disgusted by what she saw online.

“OK I'm not going to lie,” she begins. “I was angry. Like how can they misconstrue the facts so much? And, I thought, no wonder. Like we are at -- I think we're at war in this country a war of ideas and political party affiliation.”

Tobias will keep the liberal news feed for now, even though she says it kind of drives her nuts. She wants to stay open-minded and to see the political world through the lens used by her liberal friends.

“I learned that we're really divided and that the difference between left wing news and right wing news -- we're not even reading the same news.”

Tobias says she’s also sticking with the tried-and-true conservative news sources that she trusts.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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