As you sit at your computer – or laptop, tablet or smart phone – can you trick search engines into sending you the information you want and need?
The Filter Bubble
But what is more worrisome is that search engines are filtering the information you get. Their algorithms build a profile of you based on your past searches. Then they send what they think you should see.
But what if you want to step outside of your own little universe to learn more about a subject or want to understand the different points of view on a topic?
Not much chance of that as Eli Parisier pointed out in this TED talk after the publication of his book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You. The situation has only gotten worse in the five years since publication of his book as the Internet explodes with information that search engines continually filter for you.
The following year Parisier founded Upworthy, a service that aggregates socially conscious stories from around the web. In an Ideas.ted.com interview, Parisier said about the reaction his book stirred up –
People still thought that everybody sees the same things through Google and everyone sees all of the posts on Facebook and the Facebook news feed. When you can demonstrate how inaccurate that is, it’s really surprising. It’s sort of like being told that your glasses edit out certain people as you’re walking down the street.
In the past month, Upworthy had 21.4 million global views, which is substantial. I get their updates in my Facebook stream and their headlines are always grabbers.
Still, even Upworthy is filtering your results to a narrow sphere of socially conscious stories that often tug at your heartstrings.
How to Trick the Search Engines
Well, there’s always TV and radio news broadcasts. But the current election season is mostly dishing up highly partisan election news. If you only want information you agree with that’s the way to go. Personally, I’ve begun tuning out all that rhetoric.
So here’s my advice:
- The library. You can still peruse the stacks – assuming your library still has stacks. You can even go online. The New York Public Library Digital Collections is an excellent source of materials. Depending on where you live, your own library could be an excellent resource.
- A different computer. Try tricking Google by using a computer at the library, or at Staples, Kinko’s and other stores where you can buy some computer time quite cheaply. Of course, after a few visits Google will begin to create new universe for you, so keep moving!
- Ask a friend. I’ve asked friends to do searches for me. We’ll both sit at our computers and trade information from the same search.
- Social media. This could be a bit of a crapshoot. Ask a question in a LinkedIn or Facebook Group, or a Google Community.
Maybe you don’t mind that Google filters your search results. After all, how could any of us even begin to digest all the information out there about a particular subject?
But, I’d like to see differing points of view on a topic, and research I didn’t know about.
As the search engines and social media networks become ever more devoted acolytes to advertisers, we will see our universe continue to shrink, and I find that scary.