I was browsing the internet recently when I noticed something; I was getting frustrated, more frustrated than usual. The internet can be a strange and nasty place sometimes, but this was different. That’s when it dawned on me what was happening. What many months of work had lead to, I was starting to break through the Google Bubble.
The Google Bubble or ‘Filter Bubble’ is the ‘intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see’. In reality, this is what happens when sites such as Facebook or Google show us content it thinks we want to see, over information that is more accurate or controversial.
This is deeply troubling, as restricting the flow of thoughts and ideas is not good for a society. Part of growing and learning is having our beliefs challenged and learning that we can be wrong. Not only is it important to have your worldviews challenged, but also to stay in tune with what others think. The Google Bubble is segregating the population over what was designed with the intention of being a free exchange of ideas and beliefs.
Unfortunately, in a world of trolls and online hecklers, it’s become far too easy to block out the things we don’t want to see. This is especially true when we use social networks like Facebook for downtime. Nobody wants to see something uncomfortable or unsettling during a 5-minute break at home or work.
The issue is becoming increasingly important as we all move more digital and depend more on these outlets as credible sources of information. One study from the Pew Research Center estimates that 62% of US adults use social media as a source of news. Another report from Sensis shows that 35% of Australian social media users state a reason for using social media is to ‘get information on news and current events’.
A solution to this problem needs to come from both sides. Social media networks need to understand their responsibility to show us things we don’t necessarily always want to see. A content engine is only as good as the content it’s presenting though, and an organization could never risk taking us too far out of our comfort zone. Networks know that as soon as they start showing us too much of what we don’t want to see, we’ll just move onto the next network. We need to take action ourselves.
So what can we do? Don’t block, like, ignore and view all the things you normally would. Next time you see an article with a ridiculous headline, check it out! Next time you see somebody from high school post something you think is absurd don’t silently unfollow them. Check out that stupid thing they’re talking about and give it some credible thought.
Life outside of the bubble is frustrating and uncomfortable, but it’s reality. We all need to escape the bubble if we want to grow as individuals and a society.