Pariser starts his argument by defining the meaning behind the title of his book. The filter bubble is the tiny world everyone has willingly or unwillingly created for themselves through their media choices. This bubble changes with almost every click of the mouse, but there are pros and cons to living in the bubble. The bubble limits what you see and what you experience. According to Pariser it could even affect who you date, where you go on that date, and what you talk about there. The bubble affects our lives sometimes without us even knowing about it. The good thing about the bubble is that everyone gets information that’s pertinent to them, but the bad is that they don’t get information that takes them out of their own sphere. Prasier’s example of his Facebook filtering out republican postings shows that the filter bubble could even increase partisanship because neither side is hearing the other’s argument.
Apart from not hearing the other side, people now generate content that perpetuates the bubble. Specialized bloggers become a forum for discussion that is usually only among a certain group of people. The rise of user-generated content has also caused a problem in how we get our information. As Pariser discusses, blogs are now taken at the same trust level as traditional news sources like the evening news and newspapers. This can be good because it takes away some agenda setting power from traditional news outlets and puts it in the hands of the people, but can also be bad because ‘citizen-journalists’ aren’t held to the same standards as professional journalists. Slander easily becomes an unspoken truth for a short period of time because of bloggers and internet trolls. The number of times I’ve had to google ‘Did Morgan Freeman die?’ because of a rumor I saw on Facebook is too many for comfort.
Pariser makes the argument that traditional journalists are sometimes ‘in too deep’ with their sources or cities to understand what the rest of the country wants to talk about, but what the rest of the country wants to talk about isn’t necessarily what they need to know. While a lot of the country would like to know the details of Honey Boo Boo’s mom’s wedding, let’s face it it’s not as important as what’s going on every day in the Middle East. Just because a story isn’t as glamorous or captivating, doesn’t mean it’s not something that needs to be written and read.
The scariest thing about the bubble is that some people have lived their entire lives inside it. Hyper-personalization is creating citizens who don’t hear about all the issues and according to Morozov don’t care as much. Morozov discusses the idea of ‘slacktivism,’ meaning activism with the least amount of effort. In today’s world people can put their name on an internet petition and be done with an issue, or even just join a cause on Facebook. This activism is done without leaving the comfort of a bed. Morozov argues that this type of activism is deterring traditional activism; that it’s stopping people from physically going to protest or confront a problem. I don’t believe this is the case. If anything slacktivism involves people who never would have participated in activism pre-internet. There are still passionate protesters who don’t think ‘liking’ an idea on Facebook is enough. The internet helps activists more than it hurts it simply by making it easier to organize.
Do you agree with Morozov that slacktivism discourages traditional activism, or do you see it as a new tool that promotes it? What do you think of the Filter Bubble’s role in Slacktivism?