My life exists on three levels. The most intimate lies in my own head and is centered on my relationship with myself. The second occupies the space between my skin and the world around me, governed by immediate actions, appearances, and perceptions. The last extends from this room to as far as my name can travel, carried by the 1s and 0s that tie us all together. Within each stage, I have a different mask, subtly bending to the pressures of expectations, but the way each one interacts with the others and works to develop me is a fascinating process that is usually only visible after the fact.
At the furthest reaches of my influence, the internet knows me as a face and a collection of thoughts. Because I am not a digital native and only became a part of the internet after I had already done some growing up (thank god), this aspect of my personality is the youngest, despite its visibility. Though I generally don’t share much through things like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I do spend a fair amount of time browsing (lurking is the right term, I think) and cannot pretend that this exposure has no effect on my socialization. I watched the rise and fall of #Kony2012 and the enigma that is Gangnam Style and thought myself to be above that hype, but I can’t deny the selfies I have taken, the memes I’ve quoted, or the old opinions I held that faded in the light of new ideas.
On the grand scale, my impact on the global community has been negligible at best, but my contributions to the digital world lie in my physical actions. Like most, I would say, the experiences I have gained (vicarious or otherwise) through interaction with today’s communication systems have influenced my personal relationships and independent thought. In this way, concepts from the digital world propagate into person-to-person interactions and cause a more lasting impact on our society, even for those who have less dealings with the internet.
I don’t pretend to have a vast understanding of the internet as a whole, but through these personal interactions it can still influence me. Because my roommate regularly shares news and ideas with me that he finds on Reddit, the website found its way into my life. The socialization he receives diffuses into me so that I have to admit it plays a role in my personal development. In this way, I can’t say the Filter Bubble truly limits our growth. Though its immediate effects restrict our direct socialization, it, like the firemen of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, cannot control our entire society. Ideas find their way in, around, and through boundaries, despite the burning of books or the filtering of searches.
My universe is a bull’s eye with me at the center; ideas are the darts on the board. The closer to my center that each idea falls, the greater an effect it bears on me as a person. In fairness, my interaction with digital communities draws these darts toward me like a metaphorical whirlpool. I can’t escape the eye, but I can control its size.