Photo credit: Marcus Myles Media

“We become, neurologically, what we think”, as Nicholas Carr said. A recent groundbreaking campaign, called "Swap de vloggeri" or "Vloggers’ Swap", whose objective was to broaden millennials’ perspectives based its idea on this matter and got youngsters to look beyond the usual influencers that they followed on social media channels.

Telekom Romania (with ‘Life is for sharing’ as their slogan and brand value) and agency Leo Burnett Bucharest managed to convince some of Romanian’s most popular vloggers to swap places for a day with a vlogger whose content and ideas were totally opposite than their own: a gay choreographer changed places with a macho singer while a fitness influencer swapped with a plus size model, etc.

The goal to confront young millennials’ intellectual isolation and to expose them to new ideas, new content, and new material from outside their usual ‘bubble’ was achieved. The campaign’s aim was to target 1 million millennials but instead, they reached 9 million youngsters, sparking a major trend in the vlogosphere, increasing brand awareness. The results were incredible, with half a million users subscribing to the vloggers with opposing views. And all of this, without spending a cent on media.

Leo Burnett Bucharest’s Chief Creative Officer says that “Obviously the filter bubble is a bigger issue than we can solve with one campaign. It would have been easy to be part of the problem, but we opted to be part of the solution instead, using our collected data to bring opposites together. So far, it seems like we succeeded.”

However, this is not the first attempt to burst filter bubbles. In 2017, Heineken conducted a social experiment where it brought together people of opposing points of view who didn’t know each other (a feminist and an anti-feminist or a right-wing man and transgender woman). The conclusion was that they can actually bond after performing tasks together, in this case assembling flat-pack furniture.

The internet activist, Eli Pariser, mentions in his TED Talk that “We usually get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview”.

The term “filter bubble” refers to the results of the algorithms that dictate what we encounter online. According to Eli Pariser, those algorithms create “a unique universe of information for each of us which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information.” He also addresses the term in his book, “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You”, (2011). Pariser relates a situation where a user searches for "BP" on Google and then sees as the search result investment news regarding British Petroleum, while another user receives a different search result for the same keyword: news from Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These two search results are obviously different and Pariser notes that this bubble impact could have adverse effects on social discourse while others say the impact is negligible.

The filter bubbles seem to be one of the main reasons for division within our society and increased polarization and one of the global threats facing democracy, as The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2017 defines filter bubbles (and echo chambers) as one of the top global risks in the context of polarization.

This proves to be a challenge not only to brands and firms but also to anyone who is interested in reaching a wide audience across political allegiances and cultural divisions.

We clearly feel the effects of the internet and social media every day and we realize that web’s nature is to reinforce what we already know and like as algorithms are designed to show us content that aligns with our own preferences. Over time, this creates thinking bias and prevents a healthy judgment.