What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You

by Vicki on April 25, 2014

More and more, I’ve noticed that my online browsing seems to steer me in familiar circles. For example:

  • Facebook makes suggestions on things to read that are very much in line with what I am already reading
  • Amazon suggests books and products based on books and products that I have already searched or purchased
  • Google searches net results that seem tailored specifically to me
  • Twitter, iTunes, Vitacost, Songza, Netflix…..basically anywhere I go on the web seems to make suggestions that are all about ME and my preferences

Coincidence? I think not!

While it is convenient to have information personalized specifically to me and my tastes, I sometimes get the feeling that this constant personalization must have implications for how we develop ideas, come to know about products and people and in general, understand the world.

According to Eli Pariser, a pioneering online organizer, the co-founder of Upworthy and author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, it does.

In a personalized world, we will increasingly be typed and fed only news that is pleasant, familiar, and confirms our beliefs-and because these filters are invisible, we won’t know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas.

Here is a talk Eli gave in 2011 on “filter bubbles”.

The implications for how these filters are affecting what we think we know are considerable and far-reaching.

As humans we are by nature cognitive misers – always looking for mental shortcuts and simplicities as we seek to make sense of the world. These built-in, largely invisible filters make it that much easier for us to ignore and discount all that does not easily fit with our beliefs. And because these filters are largely invisible, in many cases we have no way to know what we do not know.

Want to “pop your filter bubble”? Eli lists 10 practical, quick and easy things you can do to help reduce personalization filters as you navigate the web.

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