A Call Out for Google, Facebook, and Apple

One reoccurring and compelling trend in social media is the aggregation of information across existing platforms. The major players in the online world (i.e. Facebook and Google) are both trying to gain power and larger market share by collecting all the data they possibly can and synthesizing it in such a way that you are fed the data you want or need. Therefore creating a world for you in which the information you want is within easy reach. The latest evolution of this trend is Google+ which already has created a ton of online buzz, despite only being in its beta stages. Many of the people who were lucky to enough to gain early access have been predicting a tough battle between entrenched Facebook and Google+. I predict that this battle will only increase the rate in which this trend is adopted by the massive audience that is online as Facebook and Google race to create the most all encompassing online worlds for their users. This certainly makes things convenient for us as we use the internet, BUT this trend also has me very concerned.

The reality is we also are loosing one of the things that was so great about the internet- the free flow of information and content. As these companies build this world tailored to your wants and needs you will also be only interacting with other people who look, think, and act like you. Your clicks, pauses, articles read, blogs posted, basically all your interactions with the web will be captured and analyzed by these companies so they can feed you suggestions like ‘other users who looked at this also looked at…’. Yes, that might be exactly the type of pants you were looking for, or the exact article you needed to finish your paper, but what about the importance of being exposed to ideas that conflict with your own? What about your own ideas going beyond the circle of people who already agree with you? In my opinion having your ideas challenged by others is a crucial step in developing mature viewpoints. Will we become even more of a tunnel society? Already, I have experienced these ‘filter bubbles’ and see that people are becoming less educated on topics and yet seem to be more extremist in viewpoints then ever! It also seems that the internet is becoming a place for people to hide within their own anonymity and let their ignorance flow into the comments section.  (See Doug Gross’s article “What the Internet is Hiding From You.” at cnn.com)

I certainly hope that Google, Apple, and Facebook will find a way to feed us all the information that we seek but to also actively promote bridge building i.e. having their users to take on difficult topics and, in turn, ideas that are outside their own. I call upon social media companies to be socially responsible and act with an awareness of the power they inherently hold over the behavior of our society.