Information Bubbles and the Internet

I have only been on Facebook since October 2011.  It was odd inviting people into my daily life who I haven’t seen in a very long time or perhaps never knew that well to begin with.  Many of these people have also aged since I knew them in the first place and there are days when I feel like I’ve inadvertently hosted a party in my living room for a bunch of opinionated codgers I wouldn’t spend five minutes talking to in person.

Then there are my other friends who seem “well-read”, to me.  They are intellectual, esoteric, and have a gentle wit, able to use their words, skillfully.  They send links from TedTalks, The Washington Post, and NPR and they help build my intellectual world and make me feel like a better form of myself.

I have had my finger on the Defriend button more than once telling my husband, “If so-and-so spouts off one more time about President Obama, citing Rush Limbaugh as her information source, I AM going to defriend her.”  Then I have waited because I have some thought in the back of my mind that it’s a good thing for me to know about this friend’s point of view.  I can’t relate to it, don’t agree with it, but many people say they feel the way she does and if she can help me understand where that mind-set comes from, I guess it’s good.  See, I’m also still a little reticent.

We do enough self-limiting of the information we expose our minds to.  Now, it seems that the information powers of the Internet, such as Google, are further culling links that have been coded to not be of our interest.  I have heard arguments against the personalization of the internet in terms of privacy, but another valid concern is that having more and more information that supports the way you already think does not help you to be a broad-minded thinker, speaker, or Facebooker.

Eli Pariser, in his TedTalk, presents us with some evidence about how searches for the same topic, by two different people, on Google, can result in completely different results.  I didn’t realize this was happening.  I’ve always heard about the rating system of Google links and thought we all got an even crack at the top-rated sites.

Eli asked the decision-makers about Internet information dissemination, who it seemed may have been in the room, to consider the journalistic practices of newspapers since about 1915.  At that time in US newspaper history, it became evident that journalistic practice wasn’t  open-minded or encompassing of multiple points-of-view, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.  Press practices were altered and we have experienced at least a form of unfiltered reporting for about a century.

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This is probably going to be an international debate with some uneven information access until a balance between customization and flow of varied information is achieved, somewhat.  In the meantime, be thankful for your Facebook friends who challenge you with thinking you find unsupportable.  You need to get their perspective from somewhere.