Filter Bubbles

TED Talks are on the top of my list each week to watch or read about. I happened to catch this TED Talk the other day and as the fury from Twitter’s potential change in their news feed structure I thought it was of particular interest. The talk was all about what Eli Pariser called Filter Bubbles. These bubbles represent how our internet world is completely filtered to what the algorithm thinks we want to see or thinks will be relevant to us, whether this is through Google, Facebook, Yahoo! News etc. The result is that we receive information that is often pleasing, familiar and only a portion of what is happening.

Part of the solution to the filter bubbles Pariser discussed is to make sure we are following and paying attention to information that is: 1. Relevant, 2. Important, 3. Uncomfortable, 4. Challenging, and 5. Another Point of View.

So why is this important for those of us in the church?

First, it is helpful to understand that those we are trying to reach are living in a very filtered and tailored online world – one that more often than not, is being tailored for them. Therefore, when we post content, if it does not fit within their filter bubble or personalized online experience, they might not see it – at all.

What can we do about that?

Well we can either pay to promote our content, hoping that we will hit the right target audience with the filters we include on our ads; we can be witty hoping our content is catchy enough those algorithms will push it to the top of the page; we can do some leg work and find out what our audience is talking about, searching, watching, where they are going, etc.; we can offer incentives, create awareness for our “brand,” and help educate on the usefulness of our product; or we can try another approach.

Now I’m not saying the former is a bad approach, in fact those things are necessary in creating a successful social media strategy – well other than perhaps the hopeful wittiness going viral.

This filtering and personalizations is one reason why creating conversations with people online, building trust and personal relationships offline, and listening to what is going on in their lives is of high importance. These three things are probably more important than trying to be smart, witty, and funny hoping our post will go viral – creating a twitter storm about our church.

One of the goals of any strategy within the church should be to create such a presence, online and offline, that people will make it part of their personalized world and part of their daily experiences.

One of the best ways to be part of someone’s online personalization is to be personal with them and show them that you, as an organization and church, are there for them – not to get something from them.

Second, as the church we need to pay attention to all aspects of life, not just the church. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in church world that we lose sight of what is happening around us – been there, done that.

However, it is imperative that we do not hide from or ignore the relevant, important, uncomfortable, challenging, and different points of view.

How do we do this?

One way is to listen to what is going on around us. What is happening in our communities that impacts our people? What is happening in our state and nation that is relevant to the situations of our people? How can we as a church help shed some light into what is often a very dark world?

Another way is to listen to the questions and situations people are in and offer a perspective from the church. What life issues are those in your church dealing with that you could help educate them on? What questions are they asking that you could provide some practice answers for?

I am a huge fan of what NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina does with their blogs. They have a team of bloggers who tackle hard questions on a daily basis and blog about them. They are a great example of listening to their people, entering the relevant and often uncomfortable and challenging situations to provide answers and thoughts coming from a Godly perspective.

When we begin paying attention to those things that are relevant, important, uncomfortable, challenging, and of a different point of view we will be better communicators to our people – online and offline.

These are just a few suggestions – I would love to hear your thoughts.

Here is the original TED Talk that caused my brain to start going all over the place. Enjoy – it’s good stuff.



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