February 24, 2017 by Preeks
The other day, I was getting my daily dose of depressing news from the newspaper, when my maid pointed to a picture of Sasikala on the paper and asked me if I support her or OPS. I shrugged and said, noone really, I don’t have an opinion on this matter. I could literally see her image of me in her head come crashing down and her dusting the remains of my broken shattered self image into her dust pan. She was disappointed in me for not having an opinion!
I don’t blame her. We have become an opinion hungry society. If you are not a card carrying opinionated bigot today, you are an uninformed person, living in a cave, trying to light a fire with two stones. You are expected to have an opinion on everything.
On topics related to our lives – Apple or Android? Beach or Hills? Eat pizza crust or leave it? Dogs or Cats? Books or Kindle? Books or Books converted to Movies?
On topics not related to our lives directly – Trump or Obama? Right or Left? Amma or Anna? Didi or Dada? 56 inch chaati or 46 year old youth? Free or Regulated?
On topics so bizarre, 100 years later, posterity will laugh at us for even having an opinion on this – Blue dress or gold dress? Is Lata Mangeshkar above ridicule or no? Can a group of people get together and abuse roast each other or no?
Frankly, it’s a lot of pressure.
If it ends at opinions, it’s ok. But, the problem is not just this. The real problem is what Eli Parser calls “The Filter Bubble”. Let’s face it, most of us get our news from social media. And most of the news feed we see in social media is a result of a personalized algorithm that runs in the background and decides what we should or should not see, based on our history, likes, browsing patterns, etc also called the filter bubble. Which in simple words means, the internet is deciding what news you see. What you see is not the same as what I see.
Which means that most of the time, our “news” consumption is actually a result of an automated algorithm. If you have liked someone’s opinion in the past, you will keep getting to see his opinion on everything, again and again.
Which means your opinion is now not an unbiased one, because your news source is no longer an unbiased one.
If that is not scary, I don’t know what is. This practically means that now we are opinionated bigots and we are only going to get more and more opinionated by the day as these algorithms get smarter. And isn’t that already happening? Isn’t our society way more divided than ever before?
Shudder to think what will happen next. Our next generation will be born opinionated, much like Abhimanyu in Mahabharat and we will need right wing and left wing sections in kindergarten. Lunch menus will have to be designed keeping in mind the factions in the food space – Pizza with crust versus pizza without crust, french fries dipped in ketchup versus french fries drowned ketchup, open cream biscuit and lick versus bite into cream biscuit.
See, you have to pick a side. What if I don’t care? What if I just want information and I digest that information and now I am happy to know about this, without having an opinion?
What if knowing was enough for me?
Sometimes I think living in caves was better. Or Trees. I better pick one.