Bubbles in Our Social Media World

One thing I’ve thought about frequently in relation to social media within the past year is our social media bubble. This filter bubble is a form of isolation created as a result online algorithms which track your interests and responses on social media and other websites to bring you more of what you love. You may end up with oddly specific ads on Facebook for that particular dress you had in your online shopping basket (this can’t just happen to me – hello Modcloth!).

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 12.09.52 AM

Photo by nabuhunso: https://bit.ly/2Jrrk4O

The Issue At Hand

The issue of the filter bubble was widely publicized and discussed as a result of America’s most recent election. There was a lot of discussion around how Americans who were left or right-wing were only seeing one side of the election and the story being told rather than a more rounded view of the political issues and candidates. This led many Americans to believe that the majority of the population felt the same way they did about election issues.

On a smaller scale this filter bubble is something I’ve noticed on my own personal Facebook account. I am left leaning politically as are most of my Facebook friends and followers. I tend to see posts promoting multiculturalism, immigration, and LGBTQ+ issues.  It was not until I added a person who I had met professionally in order to request the use of their photos on a work project that I noticed I lived in a bubble. While this particular person and I agree on the importance of local heritage the posts we share and see on Facebook are wildly different. Their Facebook feed is almost totally opposite to the things I stand for and believe in. I found this upsetting and considered the possibility of unfriending the person.

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Still image from the Filter Bubble Show a discussion from the Institute of Network Cultures. Photo by Martin Risseeuw: https://bit.ly/2JrA3nJ

Do the Cons Outweigh the Pros?

This leads me to ask questions about the benefits of these algorithms and the cookies which track browser history. Is is helpful to see only what you want to see, or what you already believe? Is it useful to think most of the population shares your worldview on politics and other issues?

The result of the realization that my Facebook newsfeed was skewed towards my own thoughts and beliefs led me to read a wider range of news stories to better understand what is happening in the world around me, and in particular outside my filter bubble.

And that Facebook friend? I still have them.  I reconsidered my discomfort with their posts and continue to try to understand where their point of view is coming from.

What would you do in this circumstance? Have you unfollowed or unfriended people on Twitter and Facebook due to the material they post?

facebookBubbles in Our Social Media World. Is your newsfeed only telling you one side of the story? https://bit.ly/2Llcsa4

TwitterBubbles in Our Social Media World. Are algorithms all they’re cracked up to be? #filterbubbles https://bit.ly/2Llcsa4


6 thoughts on “Bubbles in Our Social Media World

  1. I think about this often. Especially advertisers targeting ads and content to me based on what I am up to online. It is, for me, the very reason for the “Fake News” phenomenon.

  2. Your blog is food for thought and you have a good point, many of us are living in a social media bubble, which got me thinking, “what if I’m living in a bubble? How do I know if my opinions are really my own?…..LOL.” It’s also interesting that you chose to write about this topic because, for many years now, one of the quotes I have on my personal Facebook page is by Friedrich Nietzsche “It’s hard enough to remember my opinions without also trying to remember my reasons for them”.

    • That’s an interesting quote which makes a good point. It is sometimes hard with all the information we receive in the run of a day to read everything let alone process everything and make informed opinions on each subject!

  3. I also enjoyed your blog. I had not seen it referred to as a “bubble” before so I learned something. I think it is sad that Facebook and other social media would send us posts skewed toward existing beliefs as we will not get the full picture, as you say. So I think that algorithms should be changed somehow. I appreciate your honesty about your discovering the political views of your colleague but you have rightly chosen to stay in touch and informed. I learned through social media that a graduate of my high school was a member of a right wing military group, which was disappointing. I did not befriend him as I had not actually friended him at that time. I liked your photos and you seem to have credited them properly. You might have chosen to use additional graphics or indented them for added effect.

    • Thanks for your suggestions Paul! I will preview indented photos for my next blog post. It would be interesting to see how the algorithms could be changed or if anyone would be interested in changing them if companies are making money off the current system.

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