Updated December 11, 2020
A better understanding of our situation in the Internet+ Age and therefore greater effectiveness in pursuing our interests require that we accept the filter bubble phenomenon. Our use of the Internet and attendant hard- and software almost guarantees that we’ll be in filter bubbles; that we and others like us will encounter only information and opinions that confirm and reinforce the beliefs, attitudes, and judgments we already hold. Being online is to experience confirmation bias: “a tendency,” as Pariser defines it, “to believe things that reinforce our existing views, to see what we want to see.” This situation, he continues, “is more or less unavoidable.”
It’s reasonable to accept the filter bubble phenomenon when we realize this online actuality, which we can’t help but experience, is simply an intensification of our offline natural, inevitable, situation of being with others like us and thus experiencing and believing what others like us experience and believe. The offline groups to which we belong—families, of course! nation-states, municipalities, neighborhoods, socioeconomic strata, clubs, churches, political parties, professional associations, trade unions, and other formal and informal associations, and let’s not forget our gender and ethnic brackets—as well as socialization/indoctrination/propaganda and coercion in all their forms, produce like-minded groups with confirmation bias. It turns out, being with people like us and acquiring confirmation bias—that is, being in filter bubbles—is both an online and offline phenomenon; an aspect of the human condition.
It’s not clear how the filter bubble phenomenon–the online and offline intensifications of interest/like-minded/confirmation biasing groups–will play out. How can we learn from others when we’re ever-more separated from them? How can regimes labeled “democracy” which, by all accounts, require consensus/coming together, function when this requirement cannot be met? Our future is not known, but it’s best to enter it realistically; in this case, by accepting the filter bubble phenomenon.