The world we are inhabiting increasingly throws our own reflection back to us.
We only meet people that are like us, both physically and virtually. At work, we mix with people who are forced into one mold, due to an all-encompassing oppressive cloud that dictates what is acceptable and what is not. At home, we stay in gated communities choosing neighbors who are just like us in every respect, and visit malls and shopping centers where we are insulated from the “other” crowd. We don’t allow our children to step out of the confines of the comfortable, and get paranoid if they step out of the gates that we have built around them.
We leave our data trails everywhere. Big Data tracks us on the cloud. It knows what we do, where we go every moment of the day, what we buy, whom we meet, whom we talk to, when we are scheduled to travel, what we read, and detects a lot of patterns in our own behavior that we are not aware of ourselves. It tracks us online, and notes what kind of articles we read, what kind of friends receive our ‘likes’, what opinions we have, what prejudices we feed on, and pretty much knows what we think better than we do ourselves.
And then the cloud feeds it back to us. It knows what we like, and throws up search results that are in conformance with our views. It shows us posts or feeds that confirm to our biases.
The media and online feeds also do another thing. Everything is driven by metrics nowadays and readership and popularity are good metrics to get ad revenues. Since we don’t like to pay for what we consume, the ones who do, like the ad agencies, or the ones who want to manipulate us, like the sellers, get to dictate what we consume. They know more about us than we do ourselves and they control the purse strings. So we are in the same position that the two-year old is when her mother is trying to feed her. The mother distracts her with irrelevant nonsense and keeps stuffing her with what she thinks is good for the baby. The baby of course is dumb – mummy knows best.
The result of all this is that we live in a comforting bubble that is nothing but a reflection of our own biases and a reiteration of all that we like. We are surrounding ourselves in a protective cocoon that is comforting in its feeling of security. We are in an echo chamber where what we hear is only our own voice bouncing back to us. We are not even exposed to those things that are different from us.
Is this the reality that we want to build for ourselves? Speaking for myself, I don’t like the version of myself that I see developing inside this cocoon. Some of the things that we can do to safeguard ourselves are:
Use only cash for shopping. Avoid leaving electronic trails.
Turn location off on our phones.
Trawl the bazaars and high streets, not only the malls.
Travel by bus, and sleeper class train. The car is a big insulator against outside influence.
Walk out of our gated communities sometimes.
Read good magazines. Their content is not customized for us.
Join different hobby and interest groups, and not just virtually. Meet people who are different from us.