In the aftermath of a US presidential election that seemed to shock at least half the country, many Americans are asking themselves how they missed the popularity of Donald Trump. One answer is a concept known as the filter bubble: the idea that personalization tools from companies like Facebook and Google have isolated us from opposing viewpoints, leading conservatives and liberals to feel like they occupy separate realities.
The concept was popularized by Eli Pariser, co-founder of Upworthy, who wrote a best-selling book about the subject in 2012. In it, he argued that the internet is highly effective at bringing like-minded groups of people together — and terrible at creating space for differently minded people to debate.
On Tuesday, Upworthy organized an “empathy lab” in New York City to show visitors its progressive-minded videos and measure their reactions. As it wound down, we caught up with Pariser to ask him about surging interest in filter bubbles — and what Facebook, in particular, ought to do about them.
“I’m encouraged that people are talking about the filter bubble and the role social media played.”
“I’m encouraged that people are talking about the filter bubble and the role social media played,” Pariser told me. “Because even if I think that it is not the primary factor in this election, grappling with what it means to look at the world through these lenses is really important to us as a society.”