Filter Bubble: Instagram and What It Does to Adolescents
by Lea Boßlet
For many teenagers or young adolescents, the cell phone is a constant companion and it is hard to imagine life without it. We look at our cell phones around 88 times a day and unlock them an average of 50 times to open messaging services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, or Instagram. Even when we watch TV or are on the toilet, the smartphone is our constant companion. But what does this “smart” device do to us in terms of our social interactions? And here we quickly arrive at the notion of the filter bubble.
What is a filter bubble? “If you are only confronted with your own opinion, never get the opposite side presented, are always only confirmed and miss the controversial discussion of a topic, you live in an opinion bubble.” What does it mean? I am interested in fashion, luxury, and beauty, look at some posts on this topic and then, due to the Instagram algorithm but also my own created filter bubble, more and more posts, or reels on the topic of fashion, luxury and beauty are displayed in my feed. You get personalized results displayed. If, in the current pandemic, I represent a „political“ opinion and inform myself about it in some posts, only posts on this topic are displayed to me. To exaggerate, if I am doubtful of the Covid-19 vaccination I will most likely only get information from people who are outspoken “anti-vaxxers” and thus, strengthen me in my doubtful perspective. In my filter bubble, everyone seems to voice the same opinion, leaving no room for contradictions or open discussions. Thus, I only see my side and phase out the other side completely encouraging me to think that I represent the “correct” point of view.
But the filter bubbles are not only dangerous when it comes to politics. Especially young people are susceptible here, because on Instagram only the beautiful sides of life are shown: people post pictures from their great vacation, photograph 5-course meals, show their luxury homes, bodies, and cars. As a result, followers compare themselves to the idols they display. They usually don’t have money for plastic surgery, expensive cars, or vacations five times a year. Young people, however, are prone to view this content on Instagram as a reality that everyone experiences except them. This causes frustration and depression at a time when one’s own character and self-esteem have not yet been firmly established.
The ‘technological progress’ of social media must be questioned: while it brings many advantages, it also carries precarious disadvantages, especially when it comes to filter bubbles. More care should be taken to give a more differentiated picture of facts and to show the real world in all its facets instead of just referring to one point of view. Furthermore, adolescents should be taught, actually already in school, how to use social media sensibly and effectively. All in all, more reality should be shown instead of a ‘make-believe’ world in which everything always seems to be perfect.
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Wendy Rouse Gould: Are you in a social media bubble? Here’s how to tell