The Filter Bubble: Helpful or Harmful?

In the modern day’s notion of the internet and social media, some people tend to think that they can view whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want to view it. But this proves to be not fully true as Eli Pariser points out in his TED Talk over the, “Filter Bubble.” The reality of how the government filters out what we are able to research on the internet are shocking. I think that by blocking out certain aspects that some other people may be able to see, we are deprived of understanding the full knowledge of our researched topic.

Eli Pariser giving his TED Talk over the Filter Bubble

Eli Pariser giving his TED Talk over the Filter Bubble

Pariser brings up some interesting points about how we live in an altered state of mind. He explains how two different people could type in a commonly searched topic, like Obama, and the two people would get different search results. This is due to the tracking of what we previously search for on the internet, and our searches are saved and documented to filter other searches. I find this fascinating, but also kind of annoying. I understand and appreciate (in a sense) the clarifying of our somewhat complicated search results to better suit what we may like to what we may not like, but I also think this can create a close-minded view of the world. If I were to look up something I would need for a research paper, I might only be collecting information from one opinion and not even know it because I’m not the one who is filtering the results. This could reduce my comprehension of the topic I wanted to learn more about. Take Google for example. In July-December 2010, Google received 4,601 data requests from the U.S. government. They ask for these data samples so that they can know what to filter through during your search results. It is said that the most reliable source of information comes from the radio or television, not the internet, and many people are people are starting to take notice.

filter 2

I think the whole idea of constricting our point of view (in a way we don’t even realize) is very interesting. I notice that every time I log onto Facebook, I see ads pop up in the sides of my screen that I usually enjoy. They are products I would actually buy! If I were typing in, ‘Homecoming Dresses,’ the ads on the side of my Facebook page would have to do with clothing or high school or some kind of similar thing. I actually do like this aspect of filtering; it makes it easier to look for things that would sometimes be harder to narrow down. Another positive thing about the Filter Bubble is that it is an individual, personalized search engine that we don’t have to manipulate ourselves. But that is also the same point that makes it negative- we can’t manipulate it ourselves. This limits our exposure and hinders learning and creativity to anyone and everyone researching something. As stated in a blog post I read that was reviewing the Filter Bubble, I stumbled upon a good point as to why this is a negative thing that the government is doing. “We are biased to believe what we see, and filters affect what we see. They reinforce what we already believe, and hide different opinions. Therefore they dramatically amplify our existing confirmation biases. They also reduce the confusion which is inherent in the world, and since such confusion drives us to seek new information, they make us lazily stick to our existing beliefs.”

I think that stopping the Filter Bubble altogether would actually help us absorb the news as a whole, instead of bits and pieces. We should not have to limit our resources to just the newspaper or the radio to get information on the current news happening in our world when we have the World Wide Web at our fingertips. The government is preventing us from being a democracy by, in a sense, making us look at certain things and block out certain things. I believe that if we did not have the Filter Bubble, people would better understand every point of view.


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