How does filter bubbles impact our social media communication?

Filter Bubble Poster

As I am building my social media communication for my Design business, I am researching today’s social media reality to enable me to take socially responsible decisions. I promised myself to stay true to my value and make choices that reflect my true personality and beliefs.  One reality I came across during my research is the filter bubbles phenomenon used today by all major giant web companies, like Facebook, Google, Amazon to name a few. 

It all started while reading Paul Jarvis newsletter, one sentence caught my attention and sent me on a new research. s

" That’s what social media is, right? Finding people who agree with whatever views you hold, so they can confirm back at you that your views are correct."

Paul Jarvis

At first, I was inspired to designing a poster to illustrate this idea. But as I got stuck trying to create its visual translation, I understood that I had to dig deeper and better understand the implication of the suggested mechanism.  What It discovered was fascinating. 

What are Filter Bubbles and Echo Chambers?

In 2011, Eli Prasier published a book the Filter Bubble, and a famous Ted Talk worth watching. He was the first to warn us about a phenomenon, that is today widely known and recognized. 

Before we dig into the subject of filter bubbles, I want you to understand that it’s not all black and white. This filter bubble emerged from a combination of elements. Let’s check it out. 

  1. Collecting data: To help us sort through the vastness of information on the net, social media giants, google, amazon.. Have set personalization processes to sort the information to our preferences. Sorting information becomes much simpler and less overwhelming. Striving to get more and more pertinent information in our search results, these companies collect more and more of our personal data. 
  2. Our contribution: Every search we do on the net is saved, every link, share, and like we press builds the map of our personalization. We actively take part in our categorization. 
  3. The filter bubble: Computer algorithms sort all the information that comes in and decides what information to filter through to us. The main problem is that we do not decide what information is shared on our feeds or search results. This is done by pre-programmed computers. We have no control over the information that comes in or left out of the bubble. This is what is called the filter bubble. 
  4. The echo chamber: Once we are in this filtered bubble, become surrounded by people that think like you. The people and articles you liked are filtered through, others not. It creates an echo chamber that eco’s your opinion and you start to think that most people think like you. It’s a distorted reality, that creates a fake impression that you are “right” and others are wrong. It creates polarization !! Social media Polarization.

The mechanism is quite clear and well implanted. As you can see It all started from a genuine need to sort vast information and ease our way through this information. Adding to this, our natural tendency to stay in our comfort zone of wanting to be surrounded by people that think like us, we have created a closed bubble that mirrors our opinion and keeps us in a very short-minded environment. 

What can we do about Filter Bubbles?

First, be aware of this social bubble reality. 

  • Adjust the personalization filter where you can
  • The algorithm filtering won’t be changed, for now, so you have to be proactive in opening up to different voices and opinions. Through books, podcasts, radio, news…. 
  • Don’t delete people that disagree with you, engage to understand different opinions and build bridges. 

In short, there are no miracle solutions. As I have been more aware of this reality I have tried to open up more consciously to others opinions. And it’s not easy, it’s so much easier to stay in my comfort zone, surrounded by people that think like me. But what helps me open up my curiosity and reach out is by changing my focus from self-satisfying comfort of heterogeneous opinion to focusing on building a bridge between one another building a network of connectivity.
This the original essence of the internet, connecting people worldwide and sharing and accessing information without limitation. 

Ask yourself daily, what step can I take to bridge between people instead of segregating myself more and more. This is my personal responsibility!

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