Monday, September 29, 2014

An Overflowing Glass

The Third Metric Article

In our very technologically focused world, we are constantly bombarded with information.  This information can relate to anything and everything – from updates on the ISIS crisis to our friend’s engagement, even news on the Ebola pandemic and 20 reasons to date a sorority girl.  We can access all this and so much more with the simple click of our mouse or the touch of a finger.  With so much information, there is a point where we information-consumers can’t effectively absorb any more.  An article from The Third Metric says that “[the information overload] is like having water poured into a glass continuously all day long, so whatever was there at the top has to spill out as the new water comes down. We’re constantly losing the information that’s just come in -- we’re constantly replacing it, and there’s no place to hold what you’ve already gotten… And it’s hard for people to metabolize and make sense of the information because there’s so much coming at them and they’re so drawn to it. You end up feeling overwhelmed because what you have is an endless amount of facts without a way of connecting them into a meaningful story."  This is mainly a result of the many facets of information that we have access to. We can look to newspapers, blogs, social media, televised news, and articles from online news sites to try and find the truth in the info that is presented. The problem is that each source presents the information differently, and with different wordings and sides of the story, it is difficult to grasp what the truth is.  During our breaks and free time, we could spend time thinking about the articles we’ve read and the news stories we heard to try to digest what we just learned about. But instead of that, we tend to try and absorb more new information. New information is comparable to a new pair of shoes. The newness of them adds to the appeal, and we tell ourselves that what we have isn’t sufficient, and we need more. Being drawn to the new information seems like it should be great, because it means that as a culture we are interested in what’s going on. Unfortunately, in our consumerist society, once something has been seen it loses its initial attraction, and soon it becomes “out” once again. After an article is read, it isn’t digested; rather it is forgotten as we look to find the next best tidbit. This process continues over and over to leave us feeling overwhelmed with all of the information.
When information-consumers begin to feel overwhelmed they turn to their social media sites to see what their friends and acquaintances are saying about the issue. This is confirmed by Rainie and Wellmans’ book Networked, where they wrote, “the increasing amount of information pouring into people’s lives leads them to turn to their social networks to make sense of it.” Looking to see what others are thinking about an issue can create a well-rounded individual. Unfortunately, many sites have begun to use complex algorithms to sort the posts that their users can see. The algorithms are based off the user’s history. Which links are clicked on, online friends, and the types of websites a user views most are all stored in a data base and then algorithms are used to create “filter bubbles” for users. Filter bubbles are used by many sites, including popular sites like Facebook and Google. This means that personal web history is being used to filter out opinions, people, and sites that don’t seem to reflect the opinions of a user. These algorithms are in place to help us feel less overwhelmed by all of the information that we have access to so we can begin to process it. The downside of filter bubbles is that it is simply a nonhuman limiting what we have access to viewing. Many users don’t realize that they are in a filter bubble, so they assume that everyone around them has the same opinion. This feeling leads to a myopic individual who believes that there is no other legitimate opinion.

To prevent overloading of information and to stop our "glasses from overflowing", the filter bubble may be necessary, but it also has the ability to create more extremists, which can lead to more controversies. The question is this: is it better to become narrow minded in our filter bubbles or to be overwhelmed and unable to process the information presented?

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