What’s So Bad About My Little Media Filter Bubble?

What’s So Bad About My Little Media Filter Bubble?

In this guest post, Quiip general manager Julie Delaforce (pictured below) says we’ve all got our own little media peccadillos and, she argues, that’s a good thing…

Katy Denis
Posted by Katy Denis

There’s been a bit of talk of the filter bubble recently. Watch Eli Pariser’s TED talk on filter bubbles if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. The filter bubble isn’t new, it’s existed for a while. Anyone who’s studied media or communications understands the terms ‘gatekeeping’, ‘newsworthiness‘ and ‘agenda-setting’.

Julie Delaforce - GM Quiip - March 2016

One 30 to 60 minute program each evening or one edition of a newspaper can’t cover the entire 24 hours worth of events globally. At the lowest level, journalists and producers choose what they’ll report on, we also know that agendas are set higher-up and are based on the bias of media owners (whether we think that’s how it should be or not!)

The news is so heavily edited to fit into that one broadcast. So we’re already in a filter bubble as set by media owners, publishers and broadcasters. We seek out information to suit our tastes, we might supplement an evening news broadcast with Time magazine, New Scientist or Harpers Bazaar.

We selectively consume the media to feed our own information desires, we discuss it with friends of similar interests and make new acquaintances with those who share our interests, perpetuating the interest agenda we wish to pursue. This is so now, but I’m thinking about it in a pre-digital, pre-internet, pre-social media way.

Jump to now when we’re hearing about this so-called ‘filter bubble’ and its dangers to society and you may now understand my reluctance to jump aboard this particular band wagon. There are those who choose to read only celebrity news and care only about what’s happening in their world. They buy particular magazines, visit particular online sites, share celebrity stories on Facebook, seek out news about their neighbourhood online, love Buzzfeed gif stories and discuss it all online with friends, family and neighbours.

So what if they exist in their own little filter bubble? There are the people that devour the 6pm news broadcast of an evening and read their metro daily every morning. They discuss world events at a surface level over their coffee break at work, they share the latest big news on Facebook. These are two different types of ignorance or ‘filter bubbles’. And I can’t see how they’re bad. These people are seeking out the news that suits them, based on a range of niche sites. These types of people have always existed – neither Google nor Facebook created them. And it’s all good. Because there are those people in the world who ARE inclined to look more deeply.

There are the types that have a passing interest in the daily news and delve deeper into current events that don’t usually get broadcast airtime. They share and discuss things big and small online to expand their consciousness, understand the world and where they fit in it and to bring about change. They use the news and information they discover to get involved in local politics or other movements to create change. Some of them use the information they seek to wield it as an online weapon, to be a keyboard activist or a troll but never really have the inspiration to do anything. IMHO that person is worse than the ones we are told are ‘ignorant’ (and trust me, I’ve come across SO MANY of them in my time as a community manager!)

Regardless, all of these people are in their filter bubble, there are all different types of people and all different types of bubble. There will always be people who are disinclined to look outside their own safe boundaries for new information or to challenge their thinking, get involved in debate or activism.

Sure, they can be narrower-minded than ever before, seeking out only a very specific range of interests. But that’s okay, because likewise, there will always be folks who are the opposite – voraciously curious information-seekers who always want to know more and will seek out new information from new sources. There will be all sorts of different people in all sorts of little bubbles that make them happy.

Whatever evolutions occur in communications and media, there’ll always be concerns and new things to navigate. I don’t see ‘filter bubbles’ as a big issue. I know a lot of folks will disagree, it’s such an interesting topic to think and learn about.

My bubble filter bubble consists of:

  • kittens and cute animals
  • pet rescue
  • mental health awareness
  • feminism
  • wellbeing & self-care
  • chronic illness and pain
  • trashy tv shows and books
  • elementary science podcasts (think Dr. Karl)
  • all things digital, communications, media

There are a lot of other passing interests or things I don’t spend a whole lot of time on. My bubble is shaped by my own personal experiences and interests and I’m getting more information about those things I’m passionate about and can potentially do something about. I look beyond this bubble on a daily basis. The interwebz is such a treasure-trove of information and I love heading down that rabbit’s warren learning more about one of my topics of interest or something completely different I’ll only touch on that day. My bubble is not static, it is transient and dynamic. Three years ago it would have been quite different, and I’d expect it to change again in the next few years as the internet, and other forms of communication continue to reveal the wonders of the world to me! The internet, and the curation offered by social media can be a wonderful, wonderful thing and offers endless opportunities to seek out the ‘long tail’ on any subject(s) you choose.