How does it feel to know that you, in this moment, are living in a social bubble? Let that sink in for a moment. You, and I, are so unwillingly ignorant of this world, so blatantly protected from the things that mainstream media doesn’t want us to see, that the divisiveness that we find in our current society is natural. How can we expect to live in a society in which opinions are not refuted if our cultural and worldly awareness is so restricted? Facebook alone has more than 1.7 billion active users. This becomes an extremely significant number when you understand that 61% of millennials use Facebook as their source for political news (according to Pew Research). Regardless of this, Facebook has yet to acknowledge its status as a news source, concentrating its resources on increasing engagement rates. This means that our very own Facebook feeds are created based on past clicks and likes. So, why is this significant? The unique algorithm that makes Facebook generate these posts to stimulate our engagement means that we mostly absorb political content that is similar to our standpoint. We become immune to other opinions as all we see and hear about are posts and articles that support our world views, and seldom exposed to other perspectives. We are all living in our own niche when using the internet.
The global gateway that it once represented has turned into a digital form of cultural and political isolation. And this does not apply solely to Facebook –with every time you click ‘search’ on Google you are creating what your future feed will be composed of, fostering an ignorance that you didn’t even know was there. And this is not our fault – it is not in our nature to question and harbor skepticism with every article we read. Facebook’s message clearly states that the website aims to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”, but all we have been given is a social platform which acts as a vacuum, gathering together people with similar views to discuss with other like-minded peers, miserably failing to penetrate other social bubbles. Let’s take a real-world example to illustrate this. Many people were convinced that Hillary Clinton was going to win the race to become America’s next president. However, if you looked at the two candidates' social presence, a different story was told: Trump’s popularity extended far beyond what most of us fathomed. Chances are that if you supported Hillary, your feeds were filled with #ImWithHer, and yet articles supporting Trump never made it through to the final selection of posts that were to be seen by you. Our beliefs weren’t put into question because we weren’t exposed to different perspectives. We weren’t made aware of how the rest of the world was siding in this election, and therefore we believed that our verdict on the results was the universal verdict because any online ventures that we went on determined what we saw and read about the situation.
The truth is that the social bubbles that Facebook and Google have designed for us are shaping the reality of our world. When we step outside, we see a world of division and segregation. Our computer screens are no longer gateways of opportunities, but rather symbols of divisiveness. We need to remember that on the internet there are endless stories that could expand our worldly knowledge, but their messages are muted as our browser history refuses to allow them to penetrate our little, custom social bubble. The internet used to do promote political and cultural conversation, and, somehow, that has been lost in the hopes of higher engagement rates.