Social media has changed the way people perceive and engage with the world. One result of social media is the personalized news feed for each individual. News feed content varies based on friends, interests, demographics, likes, shares, and more. Facebook’s system measures success based on engagement. When you like, share, or comment on a post, the system increases that type of content in your news feed.
These personalized news feeds have far-reaching implications for public opinion. The 2016 U.S. presidential election drew a lot of attention to the issue, and The Atlantic recently published an article, “What Facebook Did to American Democracy,” addressing how this personalized newspaper has affected both individual and public opinion.
The problem comes here: Most people don’t engage with content that they find annoying, incorrect, or confusing. If two people disagree on politics and have different interests, each person’s news feed will include different content tailored to those interests. This creates what has been called a “filter bubble.” You see information that you like and find agreeable, and you don’t see what you don’t like or find disagreeable. Your friend or family member with different opinions will see information that they like and find agreeable. As the article states, “The point is that the very roots of the electoral system—the news people see, the events they think happened, the information they digest—had been destabilized.” People receive different sets of information based on what they click, leading to division.
If you have a Facebook account, you have a “filter bubble” to some degree. It has impacted the election and public opinion, but how does it impact our own thinking and worldview? These questions are important to answer because they affect how we understand the world and others around us. They affect how we treat our neighbor, and this change often results in treating our neighbor in a way that isn’t Christlike.
Keep in mind, though, that even if you use Facebook and are therefore affected by the “filter bubble,” you can still fight the ideological divides in our society. Understanding how Facebook modifies your newsfeed is the first step. Second, seek a balance of information. Then, if your Newsfeed differs from your neighbor’s, you can still have an understanding of the content they’re encountering. This will make it easier to respond in a way that follows the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What content do you typically see on social media?
- What’s in your filter bubble? What do you think may be left out of your filter bubble?
- How do you think your Facebook newsfeed has impacted your thinking and worldview?
- How do you think your filter bubble has impacted how you “love your neighbor as yourself?”
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.