OPINION: Time to pop your media bubble

Photo courtesy of Bit Social Media | Distribution Manager Max Bruns explains the “media bubble” and how it affects the content we see on social media and search engines.

A conservative, a moderate and a liberal were each asked to search for “Egypt” in Google on their respective computers.

The conservative was flooded with results about the terrors of the Muslim brotherhood.

The moderate was provided a healthy selection of good deals for resorts near the Nile River.

The liberal found page after page outlining the oppressiveness of the Egyptian regime over the average citizen and the need for revolutionary change.

Essentially, it is necessary to understand that none of those three narrowed searches was a result of accurate and unbiased reporting being provided only to some subsection of the population in some big-brother type conspiracy. The truth is perhaps much more sinister, and it’s no conspiracy. Web services like Google, Facebook, the news app on your smartphone and basically any social media you employ are aggressively building an algorithm-based database of your interests based on your searches.

If you imagine your computer as a blank fingertip, every search you undertake etches another line into your distinct print. Pretty soon, your computer will read back to you only those types of searches that you have fed into it.

It seems, on the surface, convenient and necessary to streamline your time and resources as a digital consumer. And what’s more important, these practices are not some hidden agenda for which companies are only recently becoming exposed.

Many services have a notice that requires you to allow them to amass individual data profiles on you as a user, and the way you interface with the service has everything to do with the type of data they profile. It makes shopping and consumption of relevant news fast and easy.

But, it also leaves any internet user entirely biased to the types of usages that we only really want to employ. Everything else is left out from us.

When we search for news, products, prominent figures, countries, topics and pretty much anything, many of the results may be deemed “irrelevant” based on the last time we searched for a similar topic. These are automatically left out of our immediate attention, and if we want to get a viewpoint that challenges the one that we were expecting, a perspective that is often useful and enlightening, we have to search long and hard.

Let’s say a gay Internet user wants to look up the origins of gay hate speech for a paper. He searches “gay hate speech” into Google and is provided only with articles that warn about the dangers of gay hate speech, or its damaging effects.

In an everyday search, this is the kind of content that the user might be comfortable viewing. That particular focus of such a search would be comforting and inviting to that user, but it’s not relevant to the particular investigation he is undertaking, and it is not the viewpoint that is going to be most useful for him to get information.

In the above hypothetical, let’s say the user continues to search and moves farther and farther away from his bias. Eventually, he lands on a historical website that has photos of brutalities that gay people suffered in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s by police and rioters. The images affect him, and he has a negative reaction. But the information gives him an enlightened and necessary view of what it means to be gay in the modern day and the legacy that designation has been born out of.

In the above hypothetical, the user realizes that sometimes, what is most important to fully understanding any given topic is to find both the results that you were expecting and the ones you were not expecting. Having such a diverse viewpoint will allow for a complete picture that offers any Internet user less and less informational bias. Breaking biases and searching for all sides is one way to combat the ignorance and blindness that a modulated, regulated Internet search paradigm may create for any average Internet user.

Max Bruns is a senior HAB, philosophy and English triple major. He is the Distribution Manager for the Newswire from Cincinnati.