Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Filter Bubble of the “Preppy” Nebraska Girl

Clothes. Shoes. Makeup. Fancy places to eat. New music. Promotions, promotions, promotions. 

This is my filter bubble. Let’s be clear, I did not choose my own filter bubble. I wouldn’t have chosen a personalized feed such as this for myself. 

What I didn’t initially realize about the purpose of the filter bubble, was the idea of personalization. If you really think about it, however, is it really personalization at all? Personalization. Personal. How would an algorithm know anything remotely personal to us? 

Filter bubbles are a necessary evil of our generation. This is due to information overload throughout the digital world. There is so much information out there, it has to be organized in some way. It is how the filter bubbles are used and developed, however, that needs to be improved. My filter bubble targets me in ways that generalize me, that do not challenge me, and that causes me to miss out on critical ideological debates. 

As I am sitting here reflecting, I’m sure my filter bubble consisting of the topics above is due to the fact that I am female, where I am from, and the previous searches I have conducted. It’s sad to me that because I have online shopped a few times, I am now the target of filter bubbles consisting of fluffy promotions.

What the algorithm does not take into account, however, are my critical thinking skills, my strong interest in communication studies and digital marketing, my political leanings, etc. Why do I know this? I am never exposed to any of this unless I am actively looking for it. 

Just because I am a female from Nebraska who likes to online shop occasionally, doesn’t mean I should be generalized under a filter bubble of fluff. It does not speak for my intellectual capacity, and I am thankful that I am persistent enough to recognize that. What about those who don’t actively look for information that causes them to think critically? Will they ever be exposed to it through their filter bubble? Will this limit their intellectual growth, because of the popularity of digital platforms? 

Generalizing through filter bubbles can be dangerous. It can expose us to pieces of information that do not challenge us. In my personal experience, I am not exposed to pieces of information that line up with my views and interests, or that even challenge my own opinions. I have to go searching for those things, and even then I am never sure if I reach the amount of information I could if filter bubbles did not exist. 

I enjoy reading about opinions that challenge my own. I am not one to publicize my own thoughts and opinions, nor do I comment on things that I do not agree with, but I enjoy challenging my own insights through research. When friends on my Facebook feed post about politics I will read about it, but I would never unfollow someone because of it, especially if we had a real relationship. I try to embody the purpose of Dissoi Logoi every single day. No, I’m not perfect, but I try to envision both sides. 

That being said, I recognize that there are positive arguments revolved around filter bubbles. And maybe my filter bubble is flawed, and other users have had more rewarding experiences. I can only hope as I use my digital platforms more often for things I am interested in, my personalized feeds can keep up. And if it doesn’t, I will continue to stray away from being that “preppy Nebraska girl” who likes clothes, and I will continue to research the things that truly matter. 

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