Feeling Boxed In – How Personalized News is The Segregation of the 21st Century

Who am I?

I like to think I’m a talented digital marketer, a good wife, a foodie, and a Zelda enthusiast.

Who does Google think I am?

Google Ad Preference Center

Scary, huh?

And….

Google Ad Preferences

Not sure how blenders got in there

Yes — the internet knows who you are. Don’t believe me? http://www.google.com/settings/ads.

As marketers know, there is a wealth of information available for any given individual. How Target knows your pregnant before you do, or how companies can send a “come back” email if you leave a shopping cart abandoned. I, personally, love when a brand can anticipate my needs.

But, as a user of Facebook, Twitter, Google and other online properties, I’ve found that the way they’re pegging me is starting to isolate me into a digital marketing bubble. Let me explain…

A while ago, Twitter rolled out their new “Discover” tab with the tagline “What’s happening now, tailored for you.” My Discover feed read as a running list of everything happening within the digital marketing and tech world. At first, it sounded great — I had my own library of industry articles. But after thinking about it further, it’s further isolating me from the rest of the news in the world. My Twitter timeline was supposed to be my library, “Discover” is supposed to be just that…where I discover what’s happening with the world at large.

A cure for cancer was discovered? I wouldn’t know because the next big start-up had it’s IPO.

The stock market crashed? The newest BitCoin news overran my feed, I must have missed it.

Facebook isn’t any better: I ‘m constantly served ads for digital marketing companies. Google? If you’re signed in and search for something, more weight is given to results/reviews from friends.

To all of these sites, I’m a person who has a limited set of interests, so they think they’re doing me a favor by only showing me news that I may be interested in. But in the long run, it’s segregating all of us.

I want to discover the world in the true sense of the word. What does discover mean?

Discover (v): find (something or someone) unexpectedly or in the course of a search.

There’s nothing unexpected about my receiving ads, suggestions, etc. about digital marketing.

I joke that, as a society, we’re becoming just like the movie “Idiocracy“. However, when we’re so segregated in our own “social networking circles”, we’re missing out on growing. I could grow to be enamored with art history or classic cars or any other of the millions of things that the world has to offer. But, because the internet thinks I’m a digital marketing with a foodie flair, that’s how it’s going to treat me.

So, what should we do? First of all, let’s cut our reliance on the internet to give us what we want. Next:

  • Read a book about something you know absolutely nothing about.
  • Open a newspaper — or go to the paper’s website — look up the events section, and attend an event that you would typically never think to go to
  • Talk up that stranger in line with you at the store. You never know if that will be the person who introduces you to something new, or vice versa.

Let’s make a pact to be more than just what social networks and search engines expect us to be. We’re all dynamic, ever-changing people — let’s act like it.

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