With so much information available on the internet, it would be onerous to find anything if we didn’t have a little help from filtering and customization.
Every time you search for something, everything is essentially available. Think of how many results Google returns in a fraction of a second. However, what appears at the top has likely been filtered by the search engine to guess at what you will find most interesting. The filtering is based on any number of factors including, but not limited to: previous searches, tracking websites and advertisements you click, IP addresses, keywords found in your electronic communications (e.g., email), operating system (Apple vs. Android vs. Windows) and location, to name a few. It’s designed to filter items to the front that you will like the best.
The danger with too much filtering, and customization, is that you may never be exposed to contrarian points of view. You may never discover new things that you might find interesting. I’m hooked on reading news with my NYTimes app. Although I sometimes wonder if I’m only offered headlines of stories that the app guesses I will be interested in based on behind-the-scene algorithms and tracking.
One of the things I used to enjoy about paper newspapers was browsing through the sections and reading whatever grabbed my attention. In my younger days I would have immediately tossed aside the Sports and Business sections unless a headline enticed me. Consequently, I’ve developed a real interest in some aspects of sports and business.
The old school version of filtering can still be experienced in a library, except a library is a “filter out” instead of a “filter it front.” Every item in a library has been vetted and assessed by a professional for inclusion in the collection. What you see is what’s available. Libraries have always been, and still remain, a place to share and exchange ideas, or to be challenged by new ones. In library school I learned that in a good library everybody should be offended by at least one thing in the collection. This demonstrates that the library offers a wide range of materials to suite a diverse range of needs.
It’s healthy to be informed of different perspectives and try to understand them. This helps us to develop as people and learn how to be compassionate towards one another.