A professor, while addressing us, said everything has infinite number of possibilities, but that crucial moment one starts off on one tangent, all other possibilities are dissolved to bring out one specific actuality.
Similarly, beginning to write anything meaningful is very difficult, because there are so many things that I could be writing about, but I finally decide to write this piece that you are currently reading.
But, probably, you are reading this because there is a high chance that I told you about it personally. Or maybe one of my friends did and you happened to explore more and came across this post, or perhaps you are one of the 22 students from Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Pune, and Bournemouth University, UK, who know about this cross-country cultural blogging venture. So if someone else randomly googled my name or this blog, in all probability, this page would not appear even on the third page of the ‘Goooooooogle’. Why? I’ll tell you why.
The very first lesson on this exchange programme talked about this phenomenon called the ‘you-filter’. Like the gatekeeping of journalists in the decades before the World Wide Web, this Age of Internet is guarded by search engines! Can you believe, intangible, non-human but human-made, essentially binary algorithms guard what you read on the Internet! It is the truth, my friend.
Building on that, you may have come across posts on Facebook or search results on Google that curiously cater to or sound very similar to the posts you have been reading, the websites you have been visiting, or even the people (‘friends’ on Facebook) that you have been interacting with most. Dr Roman Gerodimos, who delivered the said lecture, ‘Global Citizenship: Encountering the Other’, mentioned an experiment that he undertook along with a few of his colleagues. It revolved around various people googling the word ‘Egypt’ and taking a screenshot of the search results. Surprisingly, what he discovered was that most persons had varying search results, depending upon what they had been reading up on the Internet. Some had tourism and travels, images of the pyramids and the Sphinx, maps of the country and so on and so forth, while some had very contrasting results, ranging from politics to news to the crisis in the state.
So? What is the point that I’m making here? The point is that while we are under the majestic impression of having choice, we really have no choice. What we are served is based very superficially on what we are following and reading online, which happens to impact us in a massive way. We are left bereft of all the possibilities of reading or knowing something else — the ‘other’, which in a way ties up with where I started off. We are left ignorant of all the things that would help us to encounter the other and understand where they come from. While we happily click on the websites that give us the comfort of reading thoughts and ideas that resonate with us, we are at the same time reinforcing the search engines’ gatekeeping strategies.
Confuse the goddamn search engine! Read things that you usually don’t read about. Start following people you would not have thought of following. Share websites and posts that you haven’t in the past. Read perspectives that opposes your own. Widen your spectrum of information and knowledge in this Age of (easily accessible) Information. Results would be such:
- You would become a more knowledgeable person with a well-formed opinion.
- You would be more accommodating of the ‘other’.
- You would break away from the bubble that has been keeping you in your comfort zone all this while and feeding you with information that you may perhaps not even need.
- You would stay away from the kind of stuff that acts like junk food to your brains and accumulates fat cells, without exercising the very bright and potentially brilliant neuron cells
Go on now, read more, reflect more — and perhaps write more!