Saturday, April 2, 2016

My Filter Bubble

   Upon learning about algorithms and filter bubbles in class, my mind began to drift to my own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, and Netflix accounts. I realized that everything I see is truly tailored to what I like and what I am used to, and that is something that interests me greatly. In this blog, I am going to go through each of the aforementioned accounts that I own and explain just what I am seeing on my computer and phone screens.

   Let's start with the first account I ever had: Facebook. Facebook didn't used to have algorithms, but honestly, I don't really remember those "good ole days." My parents didn't allow me to have a Facebook account until I was a junior in high school, which is probably good because I would have posted some pretty immature and silly things. If I log onto my Facebook account right now, I will see a whole lot of the following.

   First of all, I am a very strong Christian, and I love to talk to other Christians who are on Facebook. So, I commonly see a lot of posts about God, Jesus, Heaven, hell, and everything in between. I look at almost every video that Clayton Jennings, a Christian crusader, posts on his Facebook account, and now that I think about it, I almost never go on Facebook without coming across one of his videos or posts. Although I am non-denominational, I have a lot of friends who are Catholic, so my feed often has a lot of articles explaining what Catholics believe and why. I have previously thought about converting, and this is great proof of that. It's funny how Facebook can know so much about you through a silly algorithm!

   The second thing that I see a lot on Facebook is Republican or conservative political pieces. However, I actually see a lot of liberal-type posts as well because I have a lot of Democratic, liberal friends and family. I would say that although I do identify as a Republican and a conservative, I am quite moderate. For example, I was in favor of legalizing gay marriage, which is something that not  a lot of true Republicans can say. I think that having a lot of political diversity on my account has really helped me to see the other side of arguments and to grow intellectually. For this reason, I really wish that Facebook didn't have an algorithm that cuts out things completely from people's feed.

   The last thing that I see a lot, and I mean a LOT, on my Facebook is puppies. I cannot even tell you how much I love dogs and puppies, but if you look at my Facebook, you would probably be able to guess. I watch an insane amount of dog videos, and I am not ashamed of that whatsoever. In fact, my puppy addiction is so bad, that even my boyfriend's Facebook has this algorithm because of the amount of times he has looked at puppy videos on his Facebook so that he can send them to me.

   My Twitter account is a bit different than my Facebook account because I use it for a different reason. I see my Facebook as a bit more professional, and my Twitter as a place that I can rant a little bit and retweet some pretty hilarious stuff. I usually go on Facebook to get my social news, and I get on Twitter to laugh and to feel better about my life (which is falling apart sometimes). On Twitter, I see a lot of "college problems" accounts and tweets. I'm pretty sure that this is true of almost all college students because they are just so relatable. I also see a lot of sports motivation and workout type of stuff as well as a lot of cute animals (surprise, surprise...) and love/relationship accounts.

   Instagram has a section called "explore," which I must admit, I hadn't used until I started writing this blog post. However, the story is pretty much the same as my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I see a whole lot of workout motivation, puppies, coffee, flowers, God, and Taylor Swift. Look out, basic girl coming through!

   Vine is my jam. I love Vine because it makes me LOL. But seriously, I think that Vine was a pretty cool creation that I really do love to go on when I need a little pick-me-up. Vine has just recently come up with a section that's labeled "For You," and I find myself clicking on that more than I just go through my random feed. In this section of Vine, I see a lot of puppies (obviously), and also a lot of really hilarious videos. It's pretty crazy how Vine does this because I tend to revine almost every video I see in that section.

   Even YouTube has algorithms that picks out what it thinks I will like! YouTube is a little different than all of my other social media, though. The main thing that I see on my feed on YouTube is beauty videos. I started watching hair tutorials, makeup tutorials, clothing hauls, and Target Dollar Spot videos about five or six years ago, and that has been my favorite thing about YouTube since I figured out what it was. I love learning new ways to spice up my look on YouTube as well as hearing what beauty gurus have to say about self-confidence and breaking out of stereotypes and molds.

   Ahhhh, Netflix... If only there was a course that specialized in this, I would definitely get an A! I think I speak for almost all of America when I say that Netflix is amazing. Not only does is stream tons of my favorite shows, but it also has its own shows like Orange is the New Black and Fuller House that I just die for! I tend to watch a lot of happy, romantic, funny TV shows and films on Netflix, so that is mostly what I see when I look through the lists. However, I also see a little but of action because my boyfriend and I like to watch movies on the weekends together.

   Overall, I think that my filter bubble says a lot about me. In fact, I really couldn't tell you too many more basic things about me than my bubble could tell you. It really amazes me just how much an algorithm can sift through everything we might potentially see into what it believes we actually want to see. That is the one advantage to the algorithm in my opinion. However, I really do wish that it didn't do this so much. I think that by filtering our social media worlds into something that is narrow and specific could really hurt us as individuals and as a community. It is definitely contributing to a lot of the issues we have with tolerance and acceptance as well as the decrease of dissoi logoi. I know a lot of people unfollow or unfriend people who do not think similarly to them because they want to live in an ideological echo chamber, but I can honestly say that I am not one of those people. The only reason I ever unfollow or unfriend someone is if they are posting negative things that affect me.

   Something that I would do if I was in charge of the internet would be to have a "challenge me" section of social media just like it has a "for you" section. That way, people could see opinions that they themselves do not hold, and they could grow from the experience of attempting to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. The intergroup contact theory of communication states that people who try to immerse themselves in some other group's world will understand them more and will be more likely to work well with them in the future. I think that this is a theory that we as humans should adopt in all facets of our lives - if we don't understand someone, we should simply try to get into their world and see their point of view. However, since I am not in charge of the internet, I instead must be aware of my perspectives, tolerate, accept, and appreciate other perspectives, and actively try to learn as much as I can about other groups and their ways of thinking by reading their posts, doing some research, and engaging in positive conversations.

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