Jim Fisher

In our last exciting installment, we discussed the Filter Bubble. To refresh: Your news and information from the internet is filtered by algorithms and artificial intelligence to deliver to you exactly what you want to see. The filter bubble is an internet environment that is constructed of your own biases and opinions. A possible side-effect of this is a distorted version of reality where truth is false, attacks on our capital are an acceptable means of protest, and vaccines are a global conspiracy to inject 5G microchips that will result in depopulation of the entire planet. I’m not making this up.

When you click on a news story on Facebook, a little echo is sent to Facebook indicating that this item is something that interests you. If you hover your mouse over a picture of a baby, for example, you may start to see ads for a pregnancy test. If you’re scrolling through Twitter and glance at some drivel spewed by Bernie Sanders or Tucker Carlson, Twitter will assume you want to see more drivel like that. Over time, everything you see is filtered to be exactly what you want to see. The wall of that bubble becomes your own little universe that obscures reality. You then gain the superpower of denying a fact simply by saying. “Fake news!” Authority figures that we used to respect and trust become enemies of the state. Anyone who disagrees with us becomes “deplorables” or “sheeple.”

I know, it is not comfortable to accept that our opinions are susceptible to alteration by algorithms. I don’t like the fact that we humans can essentially be programmed by our internet environment. Yet here we are in the Age of Information where anyone can know anything about everything in seconds, yet outlandish conspiracy theories (that used to be whispered between conspiratorial friends) are now discussed right out there in front of God and everyone like it’s completely normal. I’m looking at you, Qanon fans. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but I believe our democracy and maybe our very civilization is at stake unless we learn some basic critical thinking skills.

In my last article, I stated that I was going to provide some suggestions for extricating yourself from your bubble, so here goes: You can’t. Sure, the tech-savvy among us could do things like clean cookies regularly, use incognito mode in our browsers, use DuckDuckGo as a search engine, and make at least a small dent in the bubble, but you can’t pop it. The best we can do is be aware that our worldview is tainted by internet conglomerates that take advantage of our penchant to base our facts on our politics instead of skepticism. That’s how so many of us have become convinced that vaccines are dangerous, the pandemic is a hoax, and the election was stolen. We have to do better. I’ll leave you with this: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act,” - George Orwell

Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com