Selective Exposure & The Uncanny Valley

This age of media is shaping virtually every choice we make. Most of us don’t go a few hours without connectivity to the Internet. Thus, our constant exposure influences our lives tremendously and sometimes in ways that we don’t consciously realize. The focus of selective search algorithms/exposure in the readings led me think about these things in a little more depth. I found myself forming big questions like:

  • What are the long-term consequences of selective exposure from media to society as a whole?
  • How can we begin to consistently be conscious of the effects that selective exposure has on us?
  • Is our selective exposure to media  creating a myopic view of the world?

As a whole, to me, these dynamics look like darkness. We are blind to the how and why certain ads and posts are made available to us. We just see and experience them according to what we’ve clicked on before, and what we click on next. That’s all we really know. And, that’s the scary part. Yes, we are alone in the appearance that our browsers make for us. But, I don’t believe we are truly alone in our filter bubble as the author points out. I think just the opposite. We are constantly interacting with each other and, though our online presence is influenced solely by what we do, our cognitions are influenced by everything we come into contact with. The invisibility and unconscious participation in this bubble is what I find striking. The instantaneous nature and ease that Google gives us is why I question the state of our cognitions. We can’t see the how or why things are shown/answered in a Google search. Yet, we usually find what we are looking for so easily that we don’t care about the how or why because we are too busy.

For the most part, content we see is attitude-consistent versus counter attitudinal, and why it’s important for us, as users and members of society, to experience both. Selective exposure poses problems for a democratic system because it inhibits opinion formation that builds on diverse input. It can can be viewed as an attempt to reduce the cognitive load due to the likelihood of users avoiding dissonance and effortful, inconsistent and unpleasant content. I believe that counter attitudinal content is crucial in order to allow our current opinions and attitudes to be strengthened, weakened, or made moot.

It’s great that we see ads and content that we prefer. Yet, it seems that we need to remember that the things that we don’t prefer allow us to strengthen our knowledge of our opinions with good, healthy counteraction. How much are we resting on the ease of selections and decisions that algorithms give to us? Since we cannot see what is being filter, tailored, or stored about our personal browsing, how can we keep up or even chose what we see and experience? Where do we draw the line in how much we let the Internet do for us? What if we were all stripped of this luxury for a day, a week, or even forever? What effects does such have on our ability to think and do for ourselves?

I realize selective exposure is a positive way for many companies, products, politicians, etc. to reach a specific audience and generate revenue, attention, and exposure. However, like Pariser points out, too much of a good thing can cause real problems. And due to invisibility, how do we know how much we are receiving on a daily basis? And is it good for us? Our doppelganger selves reflected in our media are a lot like, but not exactly, ourselves. And as we’ll see, there are some important things that are lost in the gap between data and reality. Do we look online more and more each day and wonder how the Internet knows so much about who we are? Is what we see so accurate we begin have negative impressions? Are we stuck in a place we want to be or don’t want to be? I believe such questions will become more and more vital to the direction of our media centered society.

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