You guys have seen The Matrix, right? That’s where everyone lives in a world that is not real. The Filter Bubble is kind of the same thing and I think we are all living in one. The Filter Bubble, according to Wikipedia, is “a state of intellectual isolation that can result from personalized searches when a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user, such as location, past click-behavior and search history. As a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.”
Translation: Your internet experience is a reflection of your surfing habits. Your personal biases and opinions of everything from politics to vaccines to craft beer to racial issues are continually nourished and reinforced--to the point of radicalization in some cases. The end result is, well, the chaotic, polarized world in which we live.
At the root of this phenomenon is a bit of computer code called “cookies.” Cookies are tiny little computer files that collect information about the pages you view and your activities on the site, enable the site to recognize you, i.e remembering your user ID, keep track of your preferences if you visit the website again, and deliver ads targeted to you. Some of these cookies send out “beacons” to other websites so that if you perform a search for a weight loss product, you’ll instantly start seeing ads for Big Macs.
Another component of the Filter Bubble is “curation.” Everything you see on your social media accounts is the result of a mathematical algorithm which takes into account how you have interacted with similar posts in the past. You only see posts from friends that you’ve interacted with in some way, but especially with the “like” button.
Filter Bubbles are similar to “echo chambers.” The best example of an echo chamber is a Facebook page devoted to anti-vaccine lunacy. Spend enough time in one of those groups and you will soon be convinced that the infinitesimal ingredients in a vaccine cause your body to become so magnetic that you can stick a refrigerator to your forehead. I’m almost not exaggerating here; some people have isolated themselves from reality so much that they believe this.
In my next exciting installment, we will discuss how to extricate yourself from your bubble but I want to leave you with a paraphrase from a world leader that demonstrates my point. Some of you will like the wording and agree with the premise right up until the last two words. That’s your bubble filter talking.
“It’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. Increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.” - Barack Obama.
Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com