Social media has a big influence on what kinds of information we digest. With the technology that we have today, we are able to get information easier than ever. It’s very convenient and keeps us entertained, but it also creates this filter bubble that we are not aware of. Many companies use our private data to provide us with information and advertisements to our liking. While it is useful, many people may only see the world based on biased information. I’m sure many of us have seen examples of how this can go poorly.
For this project, I am going to analyze the social media accounts that I use a lot and see what kind of biased information, if there are any, may be presented to me. I also want to see what I can do to possibly open up my filter bubble.
I mainly use Twitter just to view what other people are saying, and it doesn’t look like there was anything significant on my feed, so I looked at what was trending on both desktop and mobile and found some interesting things. On the first image I have what’s trending in the US on the mobile app, while on the second image I have what’s trending in the US on the desktop website, but instead I have a “for you” option turned on. I can directly see the differences between what all of Twitter is interested in vs. what I would be interested in. The thing is that I’m not interested nor am I familiar with the things that were shown for me, but that could be because I rarely use Twitter.
I found that there were options to show what’s trending based on location and categories. You can also rate these trends based on their quality and relevance to you. Surprisingly, there are a lot of preferences to choose from in the settings. You can have information shown to you based on places you’ve been to, browsing history, what devices you use, and more. Twitter also gives you the option to view your Twitter data, and in that data you can view your “Interests and ads data”. Twitter makes an interests list for you based on your account and browsing activities, and you’re able to turn each one of those interests on or off. You’re also able to request the list of advertisers that Twitter has tailored you to. You can also send feedback on what tweets are relevant to you and Twitter will try to show more of those relevant tweets on your timeline. I can see how all of these options can easily create a filter bubble, but it’s good to know that you can opt out of all of these and be able to see what the rest of the world sees.
As expected, all I really see on my Instagram explore page are just memes about random things. I do see posts about other things I’m interested in, such as TV shows or movies, but overall I don’t think there’s really much to show here. There’s not much to pick from when it comes to filtering what you see; just categories to choose from. Instagram offers no options for privacy or personalizing the information you see, but they do let you look at your account data. It seems like you’re forced to have filter bubble and that you can’t do anything to change it except going out of your way to find different kinds of information. This could be bad since we don’t know how Instagram is filtering our information; however, Instagram is more about sharing your life through pictures, so I feel like having a filter bubble on here is less harmful than on other platforms. I would still like to have a little more control over what I see, though.
Snapchat contains a “For You” page that will show you information based on what they think you’re interested in. Going through the page, all I could find were memes and click-bait entertainment. I scrolled for about 15 seconds and I found only two things that were related to politics, which is accurate since I personally avoid politics. Snapchat does offer a lot of settings to personalize what you see. You’re able to opt-in or out of ad preferences based on activity, audience, and third-party networks. You’re also able to select your own “lifestyle & interests” in the settings to personalize what information you get. Snapchat also creates a list of “content interest tags” to further personalize what you see, and they give you the option to clear that in the settings.
It does seem like Snapchat is another platform where you can easily form a filter bubble, and that can be especially bad since most of the content on Snapchat is click-bait. They do offer a lot to expand your filter bubble, which is always a good thing.
I rarely use Facebook anymore, but I feel like Facebook is a platform that has a wide variety of information that can be presented. I’ve also had Facebook for about 10 years, so there’s likely a large filter bubble. Most of my timeline consisted of people’s personal lives and politics that my friends on Facebook will share, and occasionally there was an ad that showed up. The screenshot above is one of the ads that came up for me, and it does seem like it was based off of something I’m interested in. Facebook does offer news feed and ad preferences, and you’re able to view your data through the settings. Like other platforms, you’re able to select interests and view the list of advertisers catered to you. You don’t have the option to opt-out of personalized ads, but you still have a few options to expand that filter bubble. I tend to see a lot of biased and fake information with heated debates on Facebook, so these options are a must-have. It is surprising that Facebook has these options since Instagram, which they also own, has nothing you can do to personalize what you see. I wonder why it’s like that?
While there may have not been too much to see on my social media platforms, it does seem like I have some sort of filter bubble on each of them. I tend to avoid politics and view content that I’m interested in, like memes, TV shows, or some sort of entertainment, and that’s mainly what I found on my feeds. I’ve also found that I had certain interests and personalization settings selected, which can greatly change what you see on your feeds. What was really interesting to find out, though, was how many options they give you to expand (or condense) what you see. I wasn’t aware that many social media platforms do this, so I’ll look into that for my accounts. I was also surprised to see the lists of advertisers that are tailored to me and how many there were. Each and every one of those advertisers has some sort of information about me, and that can be a bit concerning. I’m glad I got to know a little more about this topic, and I’m hoping to make some changes from what I learned.