By Liz Harter
For our second installment of the YPN Book Club, we read Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web is Changing the Way We Read and Think. In May, we’ll be sharing a write-up on our next book: Talent is Overrated by Geoffrey Colvin.
The Internet was supposed to connect us. It was supposed to be a great equalizer in the world, and then it wasn’t. Next came social media and it was supposed to allow us to connect to everyone in the world, and then it didn’t. Eli Pariser shares this fact in his book which focuses on the major change Google announced in December 2009 – Personalized search for everyone. Now, instead of a great equalizer where everyone has access to all of the same information, we’re being served search results, advertisements and even friend suggestions based on the actions we’ve made in the past. Our search history follows us everywhere, and while Pariser focuses on what that means for us Online, it also provided us a major tip that we can use Offline, too.
Did you know that if you and I google the exact same phrase we will get different search results? I’m not just talking about getting different ads on top of our search results, I’m talking entirely different first pages of results with different focuses. I’m talking the fact that what I search for may have 180,000 search results while your results for the exact same search term may only return 120,000 items. The same is true if we visit a newspaper’s website – your top story will be different than mine. And it’s most especially true on Facebook where even if we have the exact same friends and follow the exact same pages our newsfeeds will be different based on our past activities on the social network. These are the Filter Bubbles that we live with every day even if we aren’t aware of them.
Pariser spends quite a bit of time describing just how we’ve gotten to a place where “fake news” can spread rapidly across the internet and convince a lot of people that it’s real. He also explains how “the algorithms that orchestrate our advertisements are starting to orchestrate our lives” as algorithms decide what we’ll see in our email, in our search results, on our Facebook news feeds, on our Yelp and even webpages in ways that we never thought of way back in 2008. But more importantly, he implores us to intentionally reach outside these filtered bubbles to gain more information and see a fuller picture of the world.
This can be as simple as navigating to a new website to read news or following someone with an opposing viewpoint on Twitter. You can also clear your browsing history and delete cookies to get a broader picture of the world. But what can we do offline to burst these bubbles?
How often do we attend a YPN luncheon with a few coworkers where you all walk to the same table and sit down? Or do you immediately beeline for two or three people you’ve met before to sit with them? I know that I am guilty of this. So how many people do we meet that day? Maybe one or two?
So, at the next event you attend, take a chance and reach beyond your bubble to say hello to someone new. Afterall, that’s what YPN is here for – to develop, connect and empower young people in our region.
Do you have an idea for a book we should read? Tweet or Instagram @YPNSouthBend and share your recommendations using #YPNTalk.