Are You Eating Too Much Cake?

Nobody wants to exercise. Even if you are a gym lover who enjoys the rush of endorphins, you still probably find there are times when it is hard to push yourself or even to get motivated to start.

Even when we know something is good for us, we also know that for some reason there’s a part of us that doesn’t really like it. Yet productivity makes us feel better than laziness. Eating healthy food makes us feel better than binging.

Part of being human, and a part of growing up, is learning that sometimes what you like and what is best for you are not necessarily one and the same thing. In fact, we know that often they are very different.

So why are there more and more apps and tech businesses that promise to give the user more of what we want, when we want it, or sometimes even before we know we want it? There is a lot of talk and investment in the venture capital community for apps that learn our preferences over time and anticipate our desires.

A big chunk of advertising online already works that way. Beware of clicking on an item or product if you don’t want to be stalked, reminded, and nudged by pictures of the product and related products and companies that seem to appear wherever you wander online. It assumes that because you once clicked on something you might want it and because you might like it, advertisers will pay a premium to follow you around and place it in your eyeline again and again. It’s called “retargeting” and the advertising business has embraced it wholeheartedly because it clearly works; according to Digital Information World, users who have been retargeted are 70% more likely to convert.

But when it comes to news and information, having your bias parroted back to you might not always be the best thing for you. Your preference for a particular news source and the comfort that comes from having your prejudices confirmed leads to an echo chamber, where you don’t always make the best decisions, or even gather all the information.

You know you should have some veggies even if all you want is cake. You know you should go for a run even if all you want is to sit on the couch. You make the decision of what to do or what to eat, fully aware of both sides of the issue. But imagine the alternative. Imagine having no idea about the nutritional value of spinach, just being constantly reinforced with the idea that if you want cake, all you need is cake, and getting sicker and sicker with no idea why. No balance. Just an echo chamber of what you want to believe. That’s what your online life is like.

Take a look at this fantastic interactive from the Wall Street Journal which illustrates the parallel bubbles that Facebook users are living in, depending on whether they are liberal or conservative in their views.

And that’s why at Counterpointing we simply deliver multiple perspectives on news and information. It feels good to be liberated from the bubble, whatever color yours may be.

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