The social media bubble

Republican candidate Donald Trump displayed on an iPad.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Republican candidate Donald Trump displayed on an iPad.

There was a time not too long ago when it was near impossible to walk from my college dorm to my macroeconomics class without having to dodge scores of canvassers for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

It was the early months of 2008, when candidates were going full force and my university campus was amped up with students volunteering to spread messages and recruit more volunteers to propel campaigns.

We all knew Sarah from down the hall loved McCain because she'd easily forgo free pizza in the quad to canvas an extra hour. We knew where Rob stood, after his many texts and Facebook messages pestering us to go into Clinton's campaign office and help make phone calls.

Some of these interactions nearly drove us to insanity, but we at least knew that everyone on campus seemed to have a strong opinion and political discourse was alive and well.

Now, eight years later, I could be living in a parallel universe.

On my digital screens, I have my go-to websites I visit for news. I can't log onto Facebook without seeing someone go on a tangent against Donald Trump. In fact, selfies and cute listicles have taken a back seat as sometimes more than half of my feed is filled with posts, articles, and shocking videos condoning the Billionaire presidential candidate.

Despite months of Trump momentum, seeing countless content from op-eds to well-known comedians bashing him, it's hard for me not to simply think, "we all hate Trump".

Yet another Super Tuesday has come and gone with him sweeping more states.

So, we don't all hate Trump, after all.

Every single one of my contacts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn cannot possibly all hate him either. But someone who's studied this phenomenon has figured out what's happening to me and a lot of my peers who use social media and Internet to get our news.

In his book, "The Filter Bubble," Eli Pariser suggests technology is causing a bubble to form around each of us – preventing us from knowing opposing views, and worse, stopping us from knowing other views may even exists. And this is not just something plaguing Millennials.

Before the internet and iPhones, and before Facebook used more sophisticated algorithms, political discourse took place in coffee shops and in local town papers, citizens could simply skip over an op-ed headline they didn't want to read – but at least they knew it existed.

Now, in an age where my Google search results are different than yours, Facebook is only likely to show content that validates your existing beliefs – because, it wants you to click, like and share.

Rarely am I exposed to the other side without seeking it out, so in my world, the world, hates Trump.

And being in a digital bubble has already caused me to become overly-sensitive when debating those with opposing views, causing me to be slightly aggressive or sometimes just awkward.

Like in the recent late night Uber ride, when my driver Russell, told me, "I just feel like we need a change."

I reminded him that unemployment is now under five percent. We continued to talk as I said the same sentence in multiple variations, until he finally told me, "I don't really care about unemployment."

"What about gas prices!" I shouted.

Getting out of the car, I told him, "While we disagree, I respect your views and our right to engage in this conversation." Of course I meant it. And, I wanted to preserve my 4.8-star customer rating on Uber.

It's not just the Trump-bashing, pro-Hillary content that's in my bubble. Every once in a while, a fellow Millennial's pro-Bernie post creeps its way into my news feed and I find myself itching to un-follow the person or in one case nearly writing, "he's a socialist".

It's hardly the healthy discourse we need in this election and causing us to become more divisive than ever.

I recently received a text from a cousin on my mom's side asking me why a cousin on my dad's side likes Donald Trump. The text continued, "I'm un-following all my friends on Facebook who support him."

I checked Facebook and sure enough there was a paragraph and link in support of Trump from the other cousin. I guess my Facebook algorithm knew me too well to rank it in my feed.

In his book, Pariser urges engineers and designers at major tech companies like Google and Facebook to write code in a way that forces users to be exposed to other thoughts and beliefs that may even challenge their existing opinions. Of course, we'd ideally seek out other opinions ourselves, but it can be hard to even begin when a simple Google search is already tailored to your political views. And I have to think makers of new products would love the chance to use that more inclusive technology in hopes of shaking up existing brand loyalties.

Until we see those changes, what can I do to break out of my online intellectual bubble? I'll start with not 'unfriending' my cousin on Facebook.