Alex Mathews

Alex Mathews – writer, bared naked dude blah blah blah

Filter Bubbles: The new media conspiracy


A filter bubble. Another term I am still not sure if I have the space in my brain to store, or more simply the desire to do so. I mean I have other things more pressing, like who will be on Cee Lo’s team this season on The Voice, or what to do with the rest of my life. But when I learned what Eli Pariser on the Ted Talk about filter bubbles had to say about them, it made me perk up. I was not surprised, because as inventor of the internet (if you missed that post, read it here), I had anticipated this. While Pariser tries to inspire us, I prefer to focus on how despicable the internet really is, along with conventional media, which at this point are merging in ways that are more pathetic than innovative (also see my last rant on Hashtag Culture). Pariser’s lead-in was that Facebook founder and prepubescent billionaire Mark Zuckerberg stated that the news feed on Facebook is important (which by the way is supposed to be like a really important cultural question, like asking Kissinger to explain what to do about Syria), he replied by stating that “a squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” And there it is right there—the central problem in American culture succinctly placed before me by the guy who is basically responsible for one of the largest nodes of the internet at present. Poor Africa. It’s always trotted out to remind us that there are larger, far more significant problems in the world. People are starving in Africa. People are dying in Africa. But dude, a squirrel just died on my front door. My friends need to know about this. And in a sense, this billionaire punk with obvious anti-social disorders who has re-invented the way we socialize with each other, is right.

The Facebook feed is apparently censored based on your clicking habits. Read more feed posts from liberal friends, and all of a sudden your conservative friends no longer appear in your feed. Perhaps that is why I don’t hear much from Tucker Carlson anymore, and why I am constantly seeing posts from my feminist blogger friend. The same applies to search, on Google, which is the one of the only other nodes in the internet. The search results you receive are essentially targeted based on your habits, just to give you results you will be comfortable with. Google used to actually give you information, back before it became a bellwether for the Nasdaq. Now it’s just a bunch of crap paid for by marketing douchebags who use Adwords.

The question is what do we want. Are we happy reading updates from our friends—looking at their children’s christening photos, reading the comedy of their Dilbert-esque lives, trading recipes, music videos—or do you want to see the people dying in Africa, or Detroit. Filter bubbles are nothing new. They’re just getting bigger and more conspiratorial, and nefarious. The irony is that I discovered this on my Facebook feed from my cousin, and the video is hosted on Google’s YouTube. Seems to be a matter of what we make matter. The algorithm will respond.

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