Breaking free from the filter bubble

By now you probably have heard of the online filter bubble. You probably feel unease by the sheer number of people being encased in a filter bubble and concerned that you yourself might be trapped in one and would like to get out from your filter bubble. Let me tell you that the filter bubble is nothing new – it exists in another form before the Internet became mainstream and you can use age-old method to escape being trapped inside a filter bubble.

The filter bubble is nothing but online groupthink facilitated by software agents that constantly tries to second-guess your preferences. These algorithms monitors your Internet activities, figure out your preferences, and offers more of the same to you. This includes your Internet searches, the articles that you click in Google Reader, and your friends’ posts on Facebook and Google Plus. At its surface, it looks like this is a good thing since it filters out the noise and helps you see only the “good stuff”. But if yo’re not careful, this could easily homogenize your world and trap you inside a sphere that echoes the ramblings of your inner id.If you’re happy with your tiny little world and care less of what’s happening outside the mirror images of yourself then stop now. Continue only if you crave for perspective and intrigued by differing worldviews.

The classic groupthink is caused by surrounding yourself with people that thinks the same way as you do. It gets things done, for sure, since there is less arguing about how to do things. But it fails beyond a certain extent due to the lack of perspective due to the low variety. Online groupthink happens in a similar fashion – your online peer thinks the same way as you do and you read blogs and articles that strengthens your view of the world. Without realizing, soon enough you became trapped in an online filter bubble.

Then how to get out from the online filter bubble? Pretty much the same way you avoid getting trapped in a groupthink. Make an effort to add variety to your online life. Don’t rely too much on “smart” filters with opaque algorithms (i.e. filters that you don’t know how it works). Spend some time to read blogs written by people with opposing viewpoints. Connect with people outside your industry. Search Google in the “logged out” state. Use RSS readers that doesn’t filter articles without you explicitly telling them what to filter.

Having variety and knowing opposing worldviews is the first step of “thinking different”. It makes you uncomfortable for sure, but in the long run it expands your comfort zone and allows you to be versatile in many situations.

Take care now, keep your eyes open and your ears sharp.


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