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Filtering Reality

The topic that has intrigued me the most this year in government class is filter bubbles. My dad has taught me ever since I was a child that I should always inform myself on both sides of an issue, consider each party fairly, and made an educated decision based on the facts. I had never heard the term “filter bubbles”, but after studying them in government, these are exactly what my dad warned me about. Simply put, “Google’s search term personalisation is detrimental to the idea of the internet as a community and is, therefore, skewing debates and discussions” (Blackburne). It is impossible to have a clear view on any topic without eliminating the bias and censorship that is inherent in any controversy.

Source: Insightful Presentations

Filter bubbles are essentially ‘tailored’ news coverage and story details. They are based on a preconceived algorithm that formulaically decides what any given person is most likely to view. While this sounds like a decent idea at first, the way that filter bubbles are implemented in society today has caused detrimental damage to our understanding of current events. These filters often cause important key information to be left out when a simple Google search is used. In fact, “From the very instant they first boot up their computer in the morning, their in-boxes comprise an unbroken catalog of outrage stories ideologically tailored to their pre-existing obsessions” (Washington Post). Furthermore, social networking sites have begun to adopt these filter bubbles to accurately target advertisements to a select group of users. Depending on what pages you click on, whose profiles you visit, and what you search for on Facebook; the ads that appear on side of the page are often times eerily familiar. That new album you just looked up? It may instantly appear on a pop-up ad just moments later. It’s almost frightening how interwoven the web has become.

Taking all of this into account, it is important to point out that while it is necessary to eliminate filter bubbles in certain settings to obtain accurate information; filter bubbles can be manipulated to be exercised for useful purposes. For example, different filter bubbles could be created (like a RSS feed) for different sides and opinions on any given story. Following this idea, it would be easy to sort and sift through basic facts from each side. This could essentially create clear-cut, categorized outlines of each party’s main topical points.

Source: Don’t Bubble Us

I am thankful that this year in government I got to experience learning about our nation without bias induced by filter bubbles or in any other way. After taking this course, I am confident that the best way to approach any issue in life is to look at both sides of an issue equally and impartially. Carefully considering things that I may initially oppose often times gives me new perspective and understanding on the subject being discussed. Unfortunately, filter bubbles are easily able to hinder this critical thinking that schools so intentionally foster. If visiting a prominent news website if filtering out things it thinks ‘won’t pertain to us’; how can we effectively evaluate any related situation? Our country needs consistency, and that includes accurate portrayal and coverage in the news.

Overall, filter bubbles aren’t being used productively by society today because citizens are only getting their initial views reinforced and aren’t being exposed to alternative options. Instead of increasing awareness on fact and different theories, our world is being shut off from a tolerant understanding of beliefs different from our own. Constantly reinforcing only our own opinions does not promote growth or change in any environment. For this reason, filter bubbles need to carefully utilized in a way that encourages American citizens to take a more active role in their government.

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