You Live in a Bubble, it’s Time to Pop It!
You open your favourite social media app, scroll through a few posts, and without you even knowing, you’re only being served content that you agree with. It’s comforting, perhaps, but does it really serve a good purpose to you and for us as a society?
We live in information bubbles. Even your close friends and family can have a totally different view on politics, science, society and even world events. One might think it’s healthy and people should have opinions of their own, and you’re right, but it stops being healthy when these opinions are programmed into us by ad serving news portals, social media sites and search engines. The problem is, that news and information sources have long stopped from being objective and actually serve us as entertainment sources.
Let’s inspect what is an information bubble and how to pop it in this article.
What Are Information Bubbles?
Traditionally we read news and got exposed to the world events by reading about them on printed paper. There might have been newspapers pushing their own agenda here and there, but the majority of articles and headlines we consumed still gave us a bigger picture of what is happening in the world.
Fast forward to today, the information we are exposed to is heavily filtered. The news article that is being served to you is selected by a computer algorithm. The main goal of this system is to show you more ads, hence it’ll do everything it can to keep you on the website longer.
This means the computer will only show you one side of the story. The one that is proven to keep you reading for longer.
This in turn means that you’ll end up living in an information bubble where your knowledge is tailored to you explicitly and often important part of the information is left out from your sight.
Information bubbles divide the world more and more by hiding the other side of the story.
While it might be entertaining, it really is a double edged sword — soon our understanding of topics and even events will become so deeply biased that we stop seeing the big picture and start to think the only possible perspective on things is the one we see within our bubble.
Why are Information Bubbles Bad?
When each of us is in a separate bubble, where problems, ideas and attitudes get amplified, we become really intolerant about subjects that don’t match our worldview.
This in turn cuts the society to smaller pieces with a sharp knife. It creates stronger opposition to any belief, philosophy or idea. This in turn creates strong ‘us vs. them’ attitudes within societies and paves a way to the rise of radical political movements like we’re seeing in the world today.
I don’t have the ability to see the future, but I feel that it will eventually lead us to more radicalisation and finally to an authoritarian society.
Who to Blame for the Bubbles?
A lot of attention has been raised over this topic in recent years. By now we’ve seen the power of social media platforms programming and modifying the beliefs of individuals in a society on a massive scale.
The trials that Mark Zuckerberg faced, after Donald Trump became the president of the United States in 2017, show the seriousness of information bubbles. However, I personally, see these trials just a mere attempt to find a scapegoat for the situation and they don’t really get near the essence of the problem. Only thing that those trials do, is create even stronger opposing sides in our society.
Don’t hate the player, hate the game
In reality Mark Zuckerberg and other social media founding fathers just created an advanced website which next to many positive things, can also be used to do bad. Also note that the word ‘bad’ here is subjective.
The most evil in the world is done by people who believe they are doing good.— T.S. Eliot
To start regulating world wide web this way and dictate how developers create websites is inherently wrong. It pushes us towards authoritarianism and is against freedom. I believe it creates even stronger information bubbles than unregulated system.
How to Pop the Bubbles?
So again, I think we should blame the system itself for the bubbles we’re in. Legislation. We should blame the idea that totally legal businesses can be built serving clickbait articles and ads that we like.
Instead of blaming the platforms that serve content, we should start finding the people and organisations (and even governments) that are behind false content published with ill intent and punish them severely.
We should also educate the society about the dangers of social media and ad based business models. We should build campaigns to change opinions on social media at the current state quite like we have managed to change opinions on smoking or alcohol usage.
We should probably even subsidise businesses that strive to make news and media more credible and ethical.
Most of all, each one of us should inspect our own bubble with unbiased perspective. Go through people and organisations we follow on Twitter and Facebook, and analyse the thickness of our bubble. Re-train algorithms that serve us content and be even more curious about different perspectives and world views.
It’s up to us to pop the bubble
To sum up, information bubbles are real problem in digital media today, and it’s up to us to break out of them.
We can take steps like reading news from multiple sources, fact-checking everything we read, and following a wide range of interests. This is the only way to make sure we’re getting an unbiased and fair look at the world.
Social media can be a powerful and useful tool, but it’s up to us to make sure we’re not letting it dictate our views and keep us locked in our own little bubbles.
Please comment below if you have more ideas, how to pop the bubbles.
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