Over the past decade or so, most people have been building a filter bubble around themselves — only seeing the content that they want to see, and hiding everything else. Sites like Facebook do it quietly and automatically, meaning you have to really fight if you want to keep a nuanced view of the world.
A few years ago I did a very rudimentary test to see which of my friends followed people on both sides of the political aisle; of the 97 friends that followed at least one political source, only two of them followed people one on both sides. They’re the ones fighting to avoid the bubble.
For years, Scott Adams (the creator of the popular “Dilbert” cartoon) blocked tons of people on Twitter (example, example). It’s unknown how many he blocked, but it was presumably hundreds (if not thousands) because he was so proud of doing it. He was deliberately building a filter bubble to only see people that agree with him, which is certainly his right to do.
Then, a few days ago, he went on a racist tirade, suggesting among other things that white people should “get the hell away” from Black people. It was not good.
This is where it gets interesting. I’ve not seen anyone online that supports what he had to say in that rant (other than Elon Musk…), but that’s not what Adams says. In a tweet after things started blowing up, he said:
Dilbert has been cancelled from all newspapers, websites, calendars, and books because I gave some advice everyone agreed with.
It’s hard to put a number on it, but 100% of the people I know disagreed with it, and probably 90% of those around the world did. To say that “everyone agreed” seems crazy, but you need to see it from his viewpoint.
Because of the carefully crafted bubble he put around himself on Twitter, having blocked anyone that disagreed with him at all over the previous years, he saw nothing but support. He blocked out most viewpoints, and was only left with people who shared his views.
This isn’t healthy.
If someone disagrees with me (in a reasonable manner), I love it! I have a handful of friends that I talk with regularly that I know will tell me things straight. We agree on many things, but they’ll quickly push back on others. While I don’t have someone that I can argue with like a Wright brother, I’m happy to have people pushing back at all.
Sometimes when I disagree with someone, I can convince them of my argument. That process often helps me think through things more and tighten things up.
Other times, people convince me to change my mind. That’s also a win, because then I’m less wrong than I was before.
The filter bubble can be hard to avoid, because it feels like a cozy place to be. I suspect Scott Adams is happy for it, because he can talk like a racist idiot and still have a group of people to support him.
I’d rather have people that keep me check so that things never get to that point, and fighting off the filter bubble is the best way to do that.