Take a minute and check your Facebook. It’s okay.. we can wait!
Okay, now take a look at the ads on your news feed. Does anything look familiar? Maybe you were on a website earlier this week and now the brand is popping up everywhere? Or perhaps you recently bought tickets to a concert and now you are being bombarded with “Music You Might Like”… weird, right?
This type of personalized advertising is being used to zero in on potential customers. It isn’t just on Facebook either. Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, the list continues! With the advancement of technology and the increased popularity of social media sites, your purchase history on Amazon can be lined up with your recent Google search inquires. This personalized advertising helps filter down the type of ads shown to you. The advertisements you are most likely to respond to are splashed across your regular web browsing, increasing the advertisers chance in persuading you on your next purchase.
However as Eli Pasiser points out in The Filter Bubble, this doesn’t just stop with advertising. It’s no secret that Facebook started filtering news feeds a while ago, but did you know Google filters results directly to you as well? Three people could search the same exact phrase and return different results. Pasiser argues that these personalized news feeds and search results limit the power of the internet. The filter bubble makes it harder for internet content to go viral, which limits the unity the internet can create behind a movement. It can also limit the information readily available at our fingertips because we are only seeing things our history indicates we would like to see, rather than something outside of our bubble.
The flip side is: we live in a generation of information overload. Is limiting our search results, customizing our advertising, and funneling down our news feeds that terrible? People used to have to do crazy things like go to the library and look information up in books and magazines… what?! Should we count our technological blessings or demand our free browsing back?