New “Pop Your Bubble” Digital Tool Uses Custom Algorithm to Give People a Glimpse Outside Their Filter Bubble
KIND Healthy Snacks‘ Foundation recently released a digital tool called Pop Your Bubble – a way to connect Facebook users with people who are different than them. New research shows our tendency to surround ourselves with likeminded people and ideas, with only one-in-five adults regularly seeking out friends who have different perspectives. The study also confirms the extent to which algorithms dictate what we see or don’t see online, with a mere 5% of adults seeing social media posts that differ greatly from their world view.
The custom algorithm behind Pop Your Bubble deviates from traditional algorithms that suggest familiar content based on past activity and interests. Conversely, this tool scans a user’s Facebook profile and activity and suggests people whose profile and activity are least like theirs. Specifically it matches users with those who differ across key demographics, such as geographic location and age, and have historically liked and shared dissimilar content. Users are then prompted to follow at least 10 new people whose posts will subsequently appear in their feed. Those who want to go a step further can add their profile and allow future users to follow them. Elle Lanning, an advisor to The KIND Foundation says,
“In developing the Pop Your Bubble algorithm, we took into account a variety of factors that shape someone’s point of view, including where they live, when they were born and the information they choose to subscribe to. Our tool intentionally matches people on a broader basis than politics alone to better account for the whole of who they are. Using the tool may prove uncomfortable for some, as they will be confronted with ideas and opinions that diverge from their own. But we’re hopeful that with that discomfort comes an opportunity for greater understanding.
While the algorithm does not directly suggest matches based on a user’s political leanings, politics will inevitably be a factor due to the emphasis placed on past likes and shares. According to Robb Willer, Professor of Sociology and Psychology at Stanford, engaging with those who hold opposing viewpoints – political or otherwise – is healthy and part of being an engaged citizen, even if those engagements don’t ultimately change our mind.