January 21, 2019

Mind your own filter bubble

By now many have heard at least one version of the incident that happened this weekend at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. between a group of high school kids on a pro-life rally field trip and a group of Native Americans attending their annual Indigenous Peoples’ March. There were articles everywhere, along with a short video showing a tense confrontation between a drum beating Native American and a smug looking white teenage boy in a Make America Great Again hat with what appeared to be a smirk on his face. The two were portrayed to be in an apparent stand-off mere inches away from each other while a crowd closed in on the two.

The focus of the video that made rounds on mainstream media made it look like a raucous crowd of white male teenagers ganged up on a few Native American elders, blocking their way. I was disgusted and outraged at what appeared to be white privilege in full force and effect being brought down on a few elderly minorities.

But - that’s not what happened.

Today it emerged that there was a third group in attendance at the Lincoln Memorial, the Black Hebrew Israelites who posted almost 2 hours of their time there, including the above-referenced incident. I’m not going to go into what this third group did, because their hateful rhetoric deserves zero screen time, but it does give some much needed context to the whole situation.

Statements have been issued from all sides regarding the incident, but debate rages on online regarding intent of either side. It still amazes me that ten different people can watch the same thing and still come up with ten different opinions about what really happened. It’s all context, it’s all perception, and it’s all what we want to see.

One thing is abundantly clear to me - I’ve fallen victim to my own filter bubble. I’ve warned about this phenomena in the past, and heartily encourage everyone to read The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, by Eli Pariser. In his book he explains how in the age of online content personalization, we will be whittled down to the narrowest of fields of vision. We will ultimately only be shown content that is customized to our specific tastes and opinions. Ultimately, we will never see the full story of anything. That is what is happening to us now - and Facebook has specifically programmed its algorithms this way for this very purpose in order to sell us stuff. And it’s not just furniture and face creams it’s trying to sell us - it’s also trying to sell us the ideas that it deems to be like-minded, whether it be political, philosophical, or religious, there’s money to be made from all venues to get us on their particular side.

This will be a hot point for Reps to say to Dems - “see, fake news,” and in this case they’re mostly right. Not that the incident didn’t happen - but that context matters in all cases. However, this is true for ALL matters. We are being so filtered down that it’s difficult to see the bigger picture on anything and everything. We’re such a divided country that we don’t WANT to see both sides to a story, and only want to listen to the narrative that we agree with.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this is supposed to work.

We used to get our news from the three main network TV stations and local newspapers. Now we’re bombarded 24/7 from all directions, without care for context, reliable sources, non-bias, or gods forbid - integrity. The oneness of fact checking and verification has now somehow fallen heavily on the shoulders of us, the information consumer. And in this case I failed miserably.

This incident was a huge red flag for me, and will hopefully be the same for a least a few other people. We’ve been data mined, analyzed, categorized, and pigeonholed as one singular thing, with one opinion. There is no room in the algorithms for subtlety or open-mindedness, no room for self thought or intellectual and cultural growth, no room for free thinking. We’re being spoon fed our own morality without consideration of the personal or global consequences.

We’ve become lazy, expecting the media to tell us all we need to know to form an opinion, but unfortunately what the media actually does now is prey on our fears and tell us what our subsequent opinion should be.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

In summary - check your filter bubble; pierce your filter bubble; get out of your filter bubble. Seek truth and facts, not opinions. Don’t jump to conclusions until you have all the facts. Listen to the other side once in a while. Knowledge is power - that hasn’t changed, so if we’re all filtered down to one box, and one side of the story - we’re all going to be pretty stupid. I don’t know about you, but I hate feeling stupid.

Moral of the story - Don’t be stupid.

fil·ter bub·ble


  1. a situation in which an Internet user encounters only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize an individual’s online experience.

"the personalization of the web could gradually isolate individual users into their own filter bubbles"

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