Filter bubbles are all around us. As Pariser mentions, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and many more of the monopolistic internet giants are using filter bubbles. So will the “algorithmic gatekeepers” of the web begin to remove filter bubbles? Doubtful. Today’s blog entry will examine how filter bubbles affect us as users, why filter bubbles are used by companies and conclude why it is extremely unlikely that they will be disappearing from the web anytime soon. The problem presented by filter bubbles is that “if I search for something and you search for something… we may get very different search results.” Users don’t realize their searches and news feeds are any different from another user.
Although many people don’t realize they are affected by filter bubble, it is important to understand how they can influence Internet users. In one example Pariser describes that “the conservatives had disappeared from [his] Facebook feed”. This is a perfect example of how filter bubbles can affect someone who is only using Facebook. For instance, say a user on Facebook often clicks links about the sport of hockey or converses more often with a group of friends who have a common interest in hockey. This users news feed and recommended friends will began to become focused on others who have interest in hockey, instead of basketball or other sports. At the very elementary level such an example may appear harmless, and even convenient that common people are becoming connected. But doesn’t this belittle us as social beings online? Instead of meeting new people with different interests and different ideas, we are being shown only to similar beings with similar interests. Personally, as a Facebook user and a social being, I find it much more interesting to learn about a new sport, culture or technology than to speak to someone about something with which I am extremely familiar with. The same idea can be applied to news, and as Pariser explains, users should be exposed to topics which are important, uncomfortable, challenging or even opposing, instead of only relevant. So if filter bubbles are considered to have such negative impact on users of Facebook and Google, why do these companies utilize them?
As with many companies, when keeping, what some users like Eli Pariser would consider, a negative aspect of a product their is one goal in mind. Profit. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and any other websites who are using filter bubbles are no different. The reason these companies likely enjoy filtering and personalizing what a user sees is because it allows for easy advertisement. If a users interests can be acquired based on how she speaks with friends or how she searches, the same interests can be applied to offer advertisements to the user. This type of advertising is called targeting advertising and is vaguely defined as: “advertising whereby advertisements are placed so as to reach consumer based on various traits such as demographics, purchase history, or observed behavior.” For example, if a user is watching a hockey game on television she may see an advertisement about Tide laundry detergent which she has no interest in. On her Facebook page, an advertisement for Bauer Hockey Skates may appear based on the filter bubbles that have been created. In the end, this type of advertising works extremely well for the companies because they already know that they can target advertisements based on a users interests. The user doesn’t complain either because the advertisements which they are presented with remain relevant to their interests and they are then more likely to purchase the product. It is for this exact reason that filter bubbles will remain on the web for years to come.
Unfortunately, the truth is, as helpful as Facebook, Google and Yahoo are to us as users, they exist primarily as corporations whose main goal is to gain profit. This thought is key, because this means that user friendliness comes second to profit. Filter bubbles is a prime example of this. Instead of creating the best possible experience for the user, filter bubbles create a unique and simple way to raise profit. Unless in the future a serious economic change occurs the Internet will likely only become more personalized and more filtered (if even possible). Corporations will do whatever they can to maximize profit, and do just enough to keep users happy enough to pay the big bucks. Once again we must ask ourselves… What has the Internet turned into? More importantly…
What Have We Turned Into?
– Ian McDougald
Beware Online “Filter Bubbles” By Eli Pariser. Perf. Eli Pariser. YouTube.com. YouTube, LLC, 2 May 2011. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8ofWFx525s>.