Photo by Clker on Pixabay

Are You Trapped in a Filter Bubble?

Add this modern mental model to your internal latticework

Julia Clavien
Nov 17, 2019 · 2 min read

The internet has completely changed the way we consume information. This has had some interesting consequences, one of which is another mental model we can learn — it’s called the filter bubble. 💭


What is the filter bubble?

The concept was promoted by Eli Pariser (elipariser) back around 2011. At that time personalization of the information we see online in our Google searches and social media feeds was on the rise. The filter bubble idea is still relevant today and well worth revisiting.

So what is it? I like this definition:

“A filter bubble is the intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption.”

elipariser says your filter bubble is your own personal, unique universe of information that you live in online.

In the words of the Google CEO at the time (Eric Schmidt):

“It will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.”

The result of this tailoring is that we find ourselves trapped in a limited bubble of information. This can have lots of seemingly positive benefits — easier discovery of things we are interested in — for example. However there’s also arguably a downside — it becomes less likely we will come across new ideas, or have our existing beliefs challenged.

I’ll leave you with some thoughts from Bill Gates:

(Technologies such as social media) lets you go off with like-minded people, so you’re not mixing and sharing and understanding other points of view … It’s turned out to be more of a problem than I, or many others, would have expected.

Do people really want to be in a microcosm where the facts are wrong? Because over time, wrong facts don’t lead to good things. If you’re hearing ‘Don’t use vaccines,’ … that’s not good for you … [but] I do think a lot of these systems are self correcting.”

Want to go deeper?

📖 The Shallows by Nicholas Carr is also a top read, and he has also has a newer one The Glass Cage. Also of course The Filter Bubble book itself.

🔖 The Quartz article with Bill Gates interview.

🎥 Or if you like it in video form here’s elipariser talking about the Filter Bubble with some visual examples.

📧 Like learning mental models? Check out the newsletter here.

Julia Clavien

Written by

Curious to a fault. Technology | Psychology | Philosophy. All opinion subject to change. ☺ linktr.ee/juliaclavien

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