We are all getting brainwashed by the internet, I’m kidding, but no really, the internet may be thinking for us. That’s an unsettling thought isn’t it? How do we create thoughts? From information we gather right?. This information can be from Google, our parents, friends, Youtube, books, and a lot more. Such sources we get our information from, influence the way we think and what kind of thoughts form in our heads. This is a problem with increasing severity because technology is more engraved into our lives by the day and people all over the world, especially young, developing minds like ours are being encouraged to have a narrower view of our life by these internet algorithms.
The problem starts like this. Joe is curious about a certain topic and searches the “A-side” of said topic on Youtube. Youtube will continuously recommend videos only about or supporting the “A-side” of the topic. Janet is curious about the same topic as Joe but decides to search up the “B-side of the topic. Youtube will similarly recommend videos only supporting the “B-side of the topic. Joe, who most likely went on the “A-path” and Janet, who most likely went on the “B-path”, have chosen their paths and formed beliefs without even knowing what the other path is about! This scenario can be on a much bigger, political scale in such thing as a vote, which has quite a big impact on our very lives.
Also, it’s not like “Oh, Youtube is just recommending videos for me, I don’t have to watch it, so no, I am making my own choice.” But really, according to Quartz, people around the world watch about 1 billion hours of video on an average day and most of those, 70%, are recommended by Youtube’s algorithms. Fun fact, according to Kartinik Hosanagar, a professor at Wharton University, a third of your choices on Amazon and 80 % of viewing activities on Netflix are driven by algorithmic recommendations. Also, think about a search on Google. We might see less than 0.01% of any search results, because frankly we don’t even go past page one. Or at least the algorithm decides which page we look at first which is ultimately the only page we look at or the page we get the most information from.
One of the biggest problems with this whole issue, other than the fact that our thoughts are being shaped by the Internet, is that once we believe in something or would like a certain idea/concept to be true we tend to fall into a trap called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when you only look for evidence that proves you’re right and not research that tell you the actual truth. We tend to stop gathering information when the evidence so far confirms what one would like to be true. Therefore called confirmation bias. Neuropsychologist Daniel Siegel tells us that once a belief pattern has been established, our neurons want to fire in line with that pattern. Basically once our thoughts and beliefs are shaped by the internet it is psychologically difficult to even give a chance to change our beliefs, you know, to even look at our options.
When us as young people, should be thinking of new ideas, and getting fresh perspectives that could change and improve the future, we are rather having thoughts created for us. Soon these few generations and forward will not bother to think for themselves. Soon, our own philosophy disappears and kids, the people of tomorrow, will not actually have an opinion of their own.
See, there are solutions that will help us from now on to be able to make fair decisions.
We need to use a variety of reliable sources not only easily accessible ones like Youtube or Google. Once in a while, try a book as a source to find information. And then start gradually increasing the amount of times you use this different type of source.
An open mindset is crucial. You need to accept that there are different opinions than yours and that there could be another story to tell.
We need to recognize that such a thing as confirmation bias exists and that we are vulnerable to fall into this trap sometimes. To fight off confirmation bias, all of us should get into the habit of asking these questions;
Which parts did I ignore or skim over without realizing it?
What if I thought the opposite of these ideas?
This problem has already affected millions of people without them even realizing. This is a chance for us to recognize what could be happening to all of us in our everyday lives.
Young minds should have the chance to look at the world in the most open sense to form our opinions and beliefs. Just the acknowledgement of this worldwide issue and fighting it starting from ourselves will improve our future. Let’s have our own voices. Thank you.