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Feminism and social network: the risk of the filter bubble

Are online debates distracting us from the real situation?

Feminism and social network: the risk of the filter bubble Are online debates distracting us from the real situation?

There is a lot of talk on social media about social issues, civil rights and so on and so forth. The discussions have reached such a level of sophistication that they are completely disconnected from reality. Have you ever tried to put forward your theories about the nuances and intersections of contemporary feminism in a café? In the family, perhaps at Sunday dinner with your 60-year-old aunt and uncle, or with colleagues from other departments at the coffee machine?

Filter bubbles and algorithms

It's the classic problem of the bubbles. The natural (and understandable) tendency to meet people with whom we have something in common, be it location, age, hobbies or habits, is taken to an extreme on social networks. The algorithm that only suggests things it thinks we might like to urge us to interact goes even further in this direction. The good result? A surprising commonality of hearts, even for those who live in lonely places, someone to talk to without boundaries, and maybe even friendships that transfer to the world outside.

A question of contexts

There is nothing wrong with that, except that if we are only and exclusively with people who do what we do, who discuss what we discuss, and who think exactly what we think, we run the risk of losing sight of the real situation which is made up of different people, who come from different places, who have grown up in different contexts, and who have different priorities. Our view of the world will inevitably turn out to be partial, if not completely isolated and isolating. We have lost the habit of confrontation and discussion other than through violent and angry comments. 

The risks: isolation and radicalisation

If we discuss what is important to us only with people who agree with us, how are we to develop critical, nuanced and, above all, realistic thinking? The risk, especially with very young people, is that we stop considering the world out there, entrench ourselves in our own tower and never learn to live with others, even in future contexts where interaction with others is essential and obligatory, for example in the workplace. This is how Andrew Tate's followers, for example, radicalise themselves, locking themselves in their bedrooms to listen to and parrot violent messages.

Bubbles and feminism: a problem of realism

Even when we talk about constructive and positive issues like feminism, there is a danger that we get lost in the thousands of individual issues and nuances without taking into account, first, the global situation and, second, the fact that women are under attack in the real world right now. We see this in the progressive changes to abortion laws that aim to eliminate free choice, in family policies that celebrate the traditional family (and harm the rainbow ones) and want to restrict women in their role as mothers, in the public discussion about trans people that is criminally behind in Italy.

Women outside the bubble

While users argue about the true meaning of the Barbie movie and try to decide if it is radical and mean enough towards men or if it poses the question too non-aggressively, women around the world, who may have grown up in closed contexts, perhaps too busy with their work, often don't even know the meaning and implications of the word patriarchy. While anti-workerism is proclaimed in social media in the name of the idea of a life free from the shackles of money, women who would like to work cannot because they do not have time, because they live in a situation of economic dependency, trapped in homes and relationships that they would like to break out of even by going to work.

A possible opening

One possible solution, which is obvious but should be highlighted, would be to give up social networks for a few hours a day to talk to the women in our lives, to understand and calibrate for them the message we hold so dear, perhaps to attend meetings  called by local feminist movements together. Or maybe we should just become aware of the limits of our own bubble and start asking ourself some questions and look at the experience of being a woman in all its complexity, without trying to impose a social solution that has to fit everyone all the time.