Do social media's filter bubbles prevent people from understanding perspectives of people with different views? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Bonnie Foley-Wong, CEO Pique Ventures, on Quora:

Our own programming can prevent us from understanding perspectives of people with different views and so can social media's filter bubbles and algorithms.

People and algorithms can behave similarly. For example, if I wanted to only hear perspectives that confirmed my world view, any time I encountered someone with a different perspective, the following could happen:

  • I'd feel bad because someone disagreed with me. They don't even have to directly disagree with me. They might just state their opinion, I might disagree with it, and feel bad about it.
  • If I feel bad, I might adopt behaviours to avoid feeling bad again ranging from not bringing up the topic with the other person to avoiding them entirely and cutting them out of my social circle.
  • Or maybe the disagreement causes the other person to choose not to engage with me and no longer share their differing perspective with me.

Algorithms seem to tend to be programmed to continue to show you content that you like and show less of content that you don't like - in a similar fashion the people-programming above. Social media is notorious for this. Their algorithms suggest you follow people that are already followed by your existing circle. They show you products and content based on your "likes" and if you liked things that agree with your perspectives, it becomes a self-propelling cycle of affirmation.

There are ways to expose ourselves to different perspectives.

  1. Get comfortable with disagreement. This may require meditation, deep breaths, big pauses, and restraint.
  2. Make your own decisions and stop doing what algorithms suggest you do.
  3. Intentionally seek out people in different geographies, from different backgrounds with different views.
  4. Keep an open mind, but know what your deal-breakers are.
  5. Say yes to invitations from people outside your usual social circle.
  6. Practice more listening and understanding and less analyzing and judging.
  7. Spend less time on social media! I think it is so much healthier to spend time with others in person and have conversations. If there's a difference in opinion or perspective, there is more of an opportunity to discuss and learn from each other in person versus through asynchronous media like social media.

Getting comfortable with disagreements and different perspectives is like a muscle that requires exercise and a skill that requires practice. It can be uncomfortable at first. But we're all in this together, we just have different ideas of how to get there sometimes.

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Published on: Sep 5, 2017