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Listen better: Your filter bubble is limiting whose voices you hear

If you’re passionate about community organising, then during coronavirus you really need to be aware of your filter bubble.

Why? Because the bubble of online information you’re presented with is being filtered. And if you’re not aware of that then your listening won’t be what it needs to be.

A filter bubble is the reality of internet algorithms choosing what you see on the internet. This often means that, when scrolling, you end up in a bubble where the algorithms have filtered what you see based on the information they have about you, and what you do online.

If you think this is another conspiracy theory then try this experiment…

Sit down with a friend, type the same search term into Google, and look at how the auto search suggestions that appear below the search box are different. That’s the algorithms trying to present you with options they think you’ll be interested in.

Filter bubbles aren’t new – it’s just that the internet algorithms have given them steroids. Before the internet (ask your grandparents), the same bias was there – it was just evidenced in what newspapers people preferred to read or TV channels they wanted to watch (back when there were only four).

So one of the core principles of community organising is about listening. Via one to ones we begin to learn what people are angry or passionate or care about. However, in a day and age where we are intermittently living in lockdowns, national or local, how do we avoid filter bubbles impairing our listening? Here are three tips:

  1. As you spend more time online the filter bubble will affect you more. So make a conscious effort to subscribe or follow online sources you fundamentally disagree with.
  2. Remember that in these more digitally connected days, there is an inherent bias against those without access to decent broadband or kit that can use it. So make an effort to contact people via telephone calls to have one to ones.
  3. When you’re thinking about the self-interests of those with power – look at who they follow/subscribe to – and do the same for a bit to understand their perspective.

Posted on 20 Oct, 2020