Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Reflections of my Filter Bubble

Scrolling down your Facebook feed, you might see a river of red or blue or perhaps purple. Maybe you do not understand why it looks the way it does. There is an easy way to see what Facebook thinks your political beliefs are: go to facebook.com/ads/preferences (Tumin, 2016). Under the section labeled "Your Interests" there are different tabs. All of them can give you a general idea about what Facebook believes you are interested in, but the "Lifestyle and culture" one has information about political preferences.  It might have political parties there or have stances on particular issues.

On mine, there were three political parties: Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian. I do not know if that means that I enjoy looking at articles from different points of view (something I try to do) or if Facebook is not very good at figuring out my political beliefs.

Most of the stances on issues match what I believe, though there were some that were quite contrary. One was about protecting guns' rights. I believe that there should be more restrictions on guns, not less. Perhaps, at some point in the seven years I have had a Facebook account, I showed interest in that.

I do come from a rural, mostly conservative background. The communities I have gotten involved with in college tend to be filled with people who are quite liberal. It makes for an interesting mixture on my Facebook news feed and it also allows me to nuanced understanding of different perspectives.

I have never unfollowed anyone on Facebook because of what they were posting. During the election period, there were two people in particular who shared a lot supporting Donald Trump. Much of it was far-fetched and had ridiculous headlines.

Immediately following the election, many of my liberal friends posted very angry posts on Facebook. They did not understand how anyone could have voted for Donald Trump. I understood their passionate anger. However, personally knowing people that I respect that voted for Donald Trump, I can understand their perspective and why it led them to vote the way they did.

In order to have successful dialogues with a person who disagrees with you, you have to understand their point of view. If you only know people who believe the same things you do, then people who believe other things are going to seem strange and wrong.

The problem is is that even as our geographic areas are homogenizing, our country's citizens continue to believe many different things. These bubbles do not reflect reality. Beliefs about reality lead to the actions that people do in political areas as well as their actions in the rest of the world.

I do not know how much of my conservative friends' posts I am not seeing because Facebook believes I do not want to see it. It seems impossible for me to know the effect. Which is what is creating this invisible bubble that people are unaware they are living in.

I do not know how to diversify the political beliefs of friend groups. The thing is, it is really comfortable to stay in groups where everyone believes the same thing you do, where you are not challenged. I understand why people do that. In order to overcome that, you have to really encourage people to go out and start conversations.

If anyone does know how to do that, I would love to hear from you.

Tumin, B. (2016, August 25). Here's how to see what Facebook thinks of your political views.
      Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-facebook-thinks-    political-views-liberal-democrat-2016-8

No comments:

Post a Comment