Non-fiction author Eli Pariser can sure pick a book title: “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You.” This writer found a new problem to worry us — because, we all know, bad news sells. This time the trouble is with the World Wide Web. Pariser warns it’s become too filtered, which means the information we receive comes to us based upon our interests and does not reflect a diverse view of the world. In the past, for example, we’ve used our browsers to select topics on the environment, so more of these stories are directed to us at the expense of other subjects. The same is true for someone with a preference for astronomy or cake recipes. According to Pariser, the result of this filtering is that we find ourselves living in a bubble of self-selected information.
I can testify there is truth to this theory. Last week, I saw a picture of a caftan on the Internet. It looked so comfortable I clicked on the site to check prices. I didn’t buy anything. I just looked. Now, I receive information about caftans every day and like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice I’ve no idea how to stem the tide. But that’s not my only brush with Pariser’s theory. Because I do research for my blog posts, my quest for information ranges from trap door spiders to foreign affairs. A few weeks ago, I received a message from my browser asking me to take a test to prove I was human. I did and am I’m happy to report I passed.
Since Pariser’s book is now out, others have done studies to test his theory. So far, the results are mixed. Only time and more research will give us a better picture. If we discover truth to his thesis, I hope we can retrain our browsers. A bubble too reflective of our personal views is a warning that we need to find a way out.