Monday, April 3, 2017

My Filter Bubble

After the disaster of the US election, I did un-follow and delete many people on various social media platforms. If I could go back and reverse those actions, I would.

As it happens, I do think we should follow people we don’t agree with, but not because it will broaden our mind on the issues. After the election, an oft-cited source by those discussing the filter bubble was a blog post by a 25-year-old called Kelly, from North Carolina. Under the heading Why I’m Voting for Donald Trump it began: “I am a white female. A victim of sexual abuse. A Republican. A Christian.” It was shared 1.5m times on Facebook and it didn’t pop up on my feed because no one I know, nor anyone whom I know knows, is plugged into those networks. This problem is compounded when social networks recommend content based on what users already like and on what people similar to them also like. The result is that we’re exposed to a much wider range of opinions, ideas and people than they would otherwise experience. And because this is done using their own interests, they end up being equally satisfied with the results. This is the filter bubble—being surrounded only by people you like and content that you agree with. 

Given the number of people who get 
their news mostly from Facebook (nearly 50% of adult Americans), this is how large swathes of the population come to live in total blackout from each other. All I can say is that it is possible, with a little effort, to persuade oneself that life is more interesting when it comes in more than one shade; that the story is better with more voices in it.


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