where do your ideas come from?

Surely no-one is surprised at the latest revelation that Facebook conducted a psychological experiment on 689,003 of its users, without breaking the terms of use that you agreed to when you signed up for facebook. If you’re curious, they found that reading a bunch of negative, or positive posts is somewhat contagious, and will affect the emotional terms you use in your own posting. Ethically concerning? Probably, but someone signed off on it.

It makes me reflect: to whom have I outsourced the media input, the stimuli that I take in, that in turn helps shape what I’m thinking about, and how my opinions evolve?

Logos is where I go to read the bible (and try to keep my Koine Greek language skills alive). I’ve been starting my day with the app for most of this year, and it’s been a helpful spiritual connection.

Feedly, which I use to keep up with 300 RSS feeds is something of a special case: at least for the most part I’m delegating to actual people who run websites for the content I’m reading. In case you’re curious, some of the Feedly content I push onto a stack to read later – either their “saved for later” content, or sometimes to Instapaper, which I read occasionally, but mostly don’t get back to.

Gmail seems a necessary evil at the moment, and its rules and spam handling keep a lid on how many different sources of information have the chance to interrupt me.

Twitter is more about when I choose to dip in, and which chaotic run of tweets will scroll past my eyes at a given time.

With Instagram, I’m still looking (at least briefly) at every photo, as I don’t follow enough people for it to become something I just dip into.

But other sources of information and entertainment include Facebooklinked in (which continues to copy Facebook in its approach to being a source of reading matter) iView player, YouTube, Vimeo and some movies, that I generally find via Apple TV).

For these, the content is curated by algorithms from a series of companies (who I trust with varying amounts of personal data) – it’s these sites that decide where my inputs come from. They present enough of a range of choices as to give the illusion that you have a well-rounded selection, but in fact, this is classic filter bubble

Even when I asked my friends (via Facebook) for suggestions on new podcasts to listen to (I use a combination of the Downcast app for iOS and a website called HuffDuffer for one-off MP3’s), I find them already closely aligned with the kind of generic-interest-with-a-touch-of-comedy that I had already stumbled upon. Does this mean that podcasts outside 5by5, the NPR family, and Ear Wolf don’t exist, or am I not well-connected enough to people who have more diverse interests?

What’s the call-to-action for this post? Think through how much time you’re spending soaking up ideas from sources where you should be more critical of their origins.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the comment Dave. I have recently uninstalled Facebook from both my work and personal phones because they are giving me less control over what I see. This will mean that I will find it harder to keep in touch with some, but I have chosen to accept that consequence.
    I pop into Twitter occasionally, have avoided Instagram. Regularly check news on ABC, BBC and Huffington Post.

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