The “filter bubble” is a phrase coined by Eli Parser after he noticed that a search for “BP” came up with very different results for different people. You’ve likely seem similar things on Facebook and Google.
Last year Bill Gates said: “(Technologies such as social media) lets you go off with like-minded people, so you’re not mixing and sharing and understanding other points of view … It’s super important. It’s turned out to be more of a problem than I, or many others, would have expected.“
The challenge is trying to break out of the filter bubble to see different points of view. Social media algorithms are increasingly focused on keeping your bubble intact, and you need to focus on breaking out of it. Jeff Bezos said it best back in 2012 when he said that “people who are right a lot often change their minds“. That’s not to suggest that you should be wishy-washy, but that you should be open to new points of view and consider why people hold those views.
I noticed this a few weeks ago on Facebook with a comment that I left. Someone had posted a politically-charged post that was demonstrably false. They already had others inside of their bubble cheering on the false statement. I pointed out that while the sentiment they shared was valid, they quote was wildly inaccurate — no one seemed to care. I see this quite often, from both sides of the political spectrum.
On the flip side, I think of two friends of mine — Joe and Karen.
Joe is a conservative, and I suspect he voted for Trump. Karen is liberal, and I suspect she voted for Hillary. Both often post political statements on Facebook, but it’s their handling of them that impresses me. While I tend to lean more toward one of them politically, I enjoy talking politics with both of them. Both have comments on every post from both sides of the aisle and both do a good job of engaging with them. Unlike the millions of Facebook users that scream “you’re wrong!” if you disagree with them, Joe and Karen both explain their points of view and listen to what others have to say. I’ve learned from both of them, and they’ve both helped to shape my viewpoint on many issues.
Open the filter
With all of the complex filter-enabling algorithms on social media, breaking out of your filter bubble can be tough. I have two pieces of encouragement for you:
- Engage with people of varying viewpoints. You’ll quickly learn who will shut you down for being “wrong” and who will be willing to engage with you.
- Follow other sources of news. This is part of the reason I still subscribe to hundreds of RSS feeds — I get a copy of every post from those blogs, not just the ones that some algorithm thinks I should get.
How do you try to break out of the filter?