Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"You see that filter?"

The concept of purposely surrounding oneself with a comfortable filter bubble seems insidious to me. The English major in me would like to clarify that I use insidious not as a hyperbolic way to communicate something awful, but as "operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way, but actually with grave effect."

The filter bubbles that we (possibly inadvertently) find ourselves in can harm us, even if they are comfortable. In an age of dramatic digital personalization, when we don't go out of our way to see two sides of an issue, we can do as much harm to our intellect as when we consciously cut opposing viewpoints out of our lives. It's imaginative to assume that everyone will have the same opinions as ourselves, and even more so to assume that anyone with a different opinion is some sort of moral degenerate, as I heard frequently during the election season. I overheard one classmate proudly declare she had deleted every person off of her Facebook page if she saw they had proclaimed support for a particular candidate in the presidential election. Outside of her college career, though, she will certainly meet people who have different views than her, and her reluctance to listen to their views (and vice versa) will halt intellectual conversation and growth. Removal of dissoi logoi ends with people shouting people down, almost inevitably.

Thus, whether we actively cut people out of our lives for their opinions or we rely on personalization algorithms from sites like Facebook, we end up limiting our understanding of issues and our understanding of other people.

In the children's movie Finding Nemo, there is a scene of fish trapped in a tank who make a plan to escape.

"You see that filter?"
"You're the only one small enough to get in and out of that thing... It's foolproof!"

It is critical to their freedom that they destroy the filter in their tank that is meant to keep them comfortable. The same can be said of our own digital filters. It is critical to our intellectual freedom and understanding that we destroy the filters that keep us comfortable, even though it means we'll expose ourselves to ideas we don't like and might make us uncomfortable.


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