If we are active on social media, or even if we are not, it is quite likely that we are in a “filter bubble” as we start the new year of 2019. “Filter bubble” is a recent expression coined by Internet activist and author Eli Pariser, referring to a kind of intellectual isolation. It is caused when a website (like Facebook for example) “curates” or chooses your own personalized viewing desires based on the kinds of clicks you have made. This happens through “algorithms” generated by these choices and then in a sense predicts what you want to see. And it is happening all the time, all around us, more and more.
In one way, this is nothing new, as it has been happening in the advertising world for decades. Have you ever watched TV noticing what adverts are shown targeting what audiences? For example, many news shows attract older audiences, hence the adverts are mostly about health issues and medicines available. And depending what political party you belong to and the shows you watch, the advertisers target those kinds of people. The result is that we end up living in a “filter bubble” and it becomes harder and harder to break out.
This makes me want to shake it up. I try sometimes to watch, read, or listen to the opposite to my political affiliation. (which is sometimes hard as I’m a political independent.) I am a follower of Christ, yet I also like to read things written by people who struggle with faith or have no faith. It gives me perspectives that I would not naturally have. I love to read novels from other cultures, very different than my own.
Yet I can end up in a bubble as easy as anyone else. I can be in a Christian bubble, an American bubble, an American who loves India bubble, a bubble within a bubble within a bubble. And the scary and sad thing is that many times I may not even be aware of it! You see, the key to breaking out of bubbles is to become more attentive, more aware. What is being chosen for me on Facebook, on my phone news feed, on the shows I watch on TV? What do I think I have freedom over but actually others are controlling my view of reality?
Being in a “filter bubble” according to the definition is to be in intellectual isolation. It means that we only read or listen to the voices that agree with us, or we agree with. We are not open to other intellectual arguments, other viewpoints. We lose our connectedness to others and enter into a realm of isolation that traps and diminishes us.
I want to get out of any “filter bubbles” as this new year starts, or bubbles of any kind. I want to defy the bubbles and pop them when I find them. Brave words, Steve, harder to actually live.
Want to join me, and we can form circles of “bubble busters”?
(photo credit at beginning of post from Lynn Lobash, Manager of Reader Services at the New York Public Library)