We naturally retreat to comfort zones. If we didn’t, we would not survive, physically or psychologically. We live in Confirmation Bias Land: we hear what we want to hear, and have fixed ideas that we want to be endorsed. It’s all pretty unconscious. It’s survival.
When it comes to information, we surround ourselves with what confirms our views of the world. Many years ago, pre-digital, when newspapers were still the main source of information and hook to the world, people red or subscribed to their tribal ones. There were ( as they are still today) right wing, and left wing, and middle of the road newspapers. They were easily classified as liberal or conservative or ultra-something.
Then Mr Digital came to town. Clever baby digital allowed you to choose what the system would filter for you. Big news outlets promised you not to bombard your inbox with anything you did not want. Tick here and here and you will never know about the unticked boxes. You could literally create you Daily Me and keep warm and safe.
Mr Digital entered adolescence and then stopped asking you. The algorithms, which I liked to picture as hundreds of little digital men crawling your webpages, would know what you want. Today they know you, indeed, follow you, and miraculously keep offering you that shirt that you saw online but never really wanted to buy. Whether you are in a theater ticket site, or the weather forecast or a sports feed, that shirt never goes away. Recently, I surrendered miserably and did buy that shirt, but the algorithms, those idiots, kept offering it to me.
Forget Big Brother. I am not talking about that. I know I have one. We need the other siblings, brothers, sisters, and also cousins. The Daily Me is now a Me by The Minute. It is Bubble World. Obama put it nicely in his farewell speech:
For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighbourhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.
There is only one way to be saved. Get exposed to as many sources and inputs as possible. Diversity of news is OK, but not enough. It is diversity of topics. For me, as alien as possible.
My rule of thumb: at least 50% of what to read, be exposed to, should have little or nothing to do with your job/business area. That increases the probability of avoiding unconscious filtering since you would have less preconceived ideas. And your mind would welcome the Spring Cleaning and fresh air.
My only limit to this is toxicity. You would not want to be in a room full of smokers smoking. So, living in the UK, I stay away from the Daily Mail.