“As more and more people discover news and content through Facebook-like personalized feeds, the stuff that really matters falls out of the picture. In the Darwinian environment of the hyper-relevant news feed, content about issues like homelessness or climate change can’t compete with goofy viral videos, celebrity news, and kittens. The public sphere falls out of view. And that matters, because while we can lose sight of our common problems, they don’t lose sight of us.”
-This is a direct quote from Eli Pariser, the man who came up with the whole concept of the topic of this blog; the “Filter Bubble”.
Ill be honest and admit that before I watched some of Eli’s videos I was completely unaware that such a term existed. But in the end I found Eli’s theory both fascinating and compelling. If you haven’t seen this video for yourself you should check it out here.
Examples in this video that Eli points out is Google and Facebook’s use of personalised search results and streams. This is something that we all knew already right? Once you have logged in and stay logged in you should expect to only see things you are interested in pop up on your feed. Im sure you would probably much prefer to hear the latest about Kimye rather than the financial woes of Ecuador, standard! However you may find it shocking to hear that all past search results and web history you will have can then be used by several internet firms to target advertising to you and make it appear prominently in your future search terms. So this can be the reason why you are always seeing links about your favourite celebrities or TV shows even if you are searching for something completely non-related for college. Think it can’t get any worse? Apparently even if you decide to search Google and Facebook as anonymous users, they can still find out its YOU judging on some fascinating elements such as your location, whether you are on a laptop,a PC or a mobile device, even going as far as where you are sitting. Stalker alert
Another thing I learned about filter bubbles thanks to Eli’s talks are the shocking personalised Google searches for every individual person. I was always under the impression that Google had the same basic searches for everyone. It turns out I was very wrong. If you and I both searched a term, lets say “football” we may be get completely different search results, or get the same results but in a different order on the list. This is because Google likes to think it knows us personally and thus will filter its results to cater to our preferences. If you are a Liverpool supporter and I am a Manchester United supporter, then a hypothetical 5-2 win for United over Liverpool would more than likely appear higher up on my search bar for Google than you the Liverpool fan. All of this can understandably make the average person feel uncomfortable that Google is in possession of all this data. No longer will we think Google is just an inanimate service in which we look for answers.
Thinking “Oh thats ok I can just start using Yahoo! instead”?. Yahoo are just as much a culprit of filtering data as Google are, but because they are not as mainstream as Google it has been less noticeable. The same can be said for Bing.
So is there a way to escape these overwhelming filter bubbles? There is. If your wanting to get as much information that is available on a social network, then make the move to Twitter over Facebook, because Twitter is so vast and fast moving, it would be near impossible for anyone to filter information to suit just you. Also available as an alternative to Google is new up and coming search engine DuckDuckGo. Again this a service that I had never heard of when first researching the filter bubble and I thought “Sure just use Google!”. However I now know that this is in fact the one of the only search engines out there that gives you 100% unfiltered results, and this is what they pride themselves on.
I hope you are now aware that we are all in fact trapped inside a social bubble, but that now we all know how to make this bubble burst! Bubbles are for birthday parties, and not for the world wide web