John Gray

Flies in the Web

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You


Viking 320pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

It is hardly news that the Internet has made privacy all but impossible. More information about us can be accessed on the Web than was available in the past to our closest friends, and practically anything of importance that we do leaves an electronic trace. If we can all expect to have fifteen minutes of fame, it is also true that hardly anyone can hope for even five minutes of anonymity. Less obvious are the ways in which the Internet has made the variegated forms of life of former times decreasingly viable. In the past each of us could show different sides of our personalities in different contexts, becoming different people as we shifted from one situation or role to another. Some people managed to live several lives, successively or in parallel, moving from one to another as circumstances demanded. Nowadays, with so much of what we have done and been preserved in cyberspace, this complexity is harder to maintain. Transparency to others has made us simpler, and in some sense less free. As Eli Pariser notes, quoting from an academic study on ‘The Googlization of Everything’ by Siva Vaidhyanathan, ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby could not exist today. The digital ghost of Jay Gatz would follow him everywhere.’

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