Don’t be Defined by Your “Filter Bubble”

It’s a pretty odd feeling to see the shoes you were looking at on a different website show up in your Facebook feed later that day. You may begin to question, “hey, when did Facebook and other websites start talking, and why are they talking about me?” In today’s age, all the websites we utilize on a daily basis are beginning to intertwine with each other and tailor our searches to our preferences. This phenomenon has been dubbed the “filter bubble” as over time, the more we search the web and click on various sites, the more we are kept from certain websites, thus forming a bubble around the information that pertains to our interests. The way it executes this job is through an algorithmic function that examines and makes assumptions from our previous searches. At first glance, this doesn’t seem too problematic. However, a filer bubble undermines one of the fundamental principles of the internet — to connect us to the wide variety of ideas throughout the world that were once out our reach. After all, we never even get a chance to see the information that is kept from us due to these bubbles.

This correlates with the concept that Eli Pariser brings up, that the filter bubbles are algorithmic “gatekeepers” as they control the information that we see. The media has always been associated with the figure of a “gatekeeper” as they are the public’s source of information, and ultimately have the discretion on what to report. This is a big responsibility on their part, as they must ensure that the public receives accurate information in a time relevant manner. Today, media outlets might even be more inclined to be fair gatekeepers as they have to compete with the many media sources that are available. The public must be aware of their role as a gatekeeper and be proactive in using varied sources of information, to get a wider scope on a topic. Similarly, conscious searching can prevent the constraining effects provided by the filter bubble. Conscious searching can be practiced by looking beyond the first few links when searching, as these are the most related to your “preferred information”.

So, how can websites such as Google and Facebook aid in preventing the constraining effects of filter bubbles? I think the answer lies in achieving balance; for every piece of information that is based on your preferences, there should be a more foreign topic. For example, if I prefer to search information on pop culture figures, there should be a balance between pop culture news and other categories of news such as politics, world, and technology in my feed (shown in photo below). We must seek to obtain the information beyond what the internet thinks we want to see, or else we will be limited in our knowledge and, to an extent, civically irresponsible.

Don’t allow your filter bubble to define your thinking! Be a smart searcher, and look beyond your immediate results from a search engine.

Photo source: http://caninetraining.com.au/images/easyblog_articles/65/stone-balance.png

Sources: https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en#t-367139

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/books/review/book-review-the-filter-bubble-by-eli-pariser.html