Becoming even more like you all the time

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I ran across this fascinating talk by Eli Pariser at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference earlier this year:

It’s about “filter bubbles,” which is an unintended consequence of websites that tailor content to your interests. If Facebook senses you’re a liberal and that you more often follow liberal links your friends post, it may hide conservative friends from your news feed. Google may do the same with search results. If you don’t read a lot of world affairs and news sites, you could search with the name of a country in the news and not be directed to any stories about that news! Pariser talks about the damaging effect this can have, as you may not be exposed to as many challenging ideas or even basic facts you ought to know. Rather than growing as a person, you just become more and more like you.

This is a classic problem that mass media used to help us get over by curating the selection of material. When I was a newspaper reporter, I tried to give my readers a mixture of applesauce and pink medicine. That is, a fair number of stories that were fun or delightful or affirming to read along with some things that were perhaps hard to hear or not obviously interesting, but really important.

What do you think? Is this a real concern, or not? As media become more personalized, how can be ensure that we’re always stimulated and challenged by new ideas?

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This article has 2 comments

  1. Kimberly Israel 05/31/2011, 9:33 am:

    I can deal with the fact that I choose to read more liberal than conservative stuff, but I don’t like the idea of having the options not even show up. The whole point of doing a search on Google is to find stuff I can’t find myself. And I keep telling Facebook to include all my friends in my news feed but I’m not completely sure it does.

  2. alexis sanchez 07/10/2011, 10:36 am:

    very nice read, your site is great I am going to bookmark it

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