I wish I had taken “before” and “after” pics of my Facebook newsfeed. I honestly did not expect to see changes in the content and quality of the feed so quickly; I wasn’t sure two weeks would be enough, let alone two days. If it hadn’t been for my friend Alice’s post, I might have chalked it up to the fact that I had recently been on vacation in Maine, with very limited cell and WiFi coverage. I’ve probably had fewer opportunities to “Like” anything, lately, although I tried to “Like” just enough to let people know that I wasn’t dead.
In fact, I was very much alive and having a great time at York Beach, hiking a rocky cliff-side path, looking for baby crabs in the tide pools, trying not to fall down on the wiggly bridge, enjoying a shady walk through the woods, and even taking a dip in the icy northern Atlantic – which is nothing like the clear, tepid, calm water near Miami.
So, what differences have I noticed on Facebook since starting this “Like” Diet? For one thing, my newsfeed seems much more relevant and human. And by “human,” I mean that I am suddenly seeing more posts from the friends I converse with in comments, and fewer from the people whose posts I merely nod at and “Like,” as well as far fewer posts from media outlets and corporate entities. There was still a post from Hubspot, this morning; apparently, nearly 50 friends of mine had “Liked” it, so Facebook’s still assuming I will, too.
Others have joined us and started noticing similar results. A few have even commented with a link to the article that actually started these “experiments”: I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me. If your newsfeed has become a place of constant conflict and emotional manipulation, consider this observation from the article:
As day one rolled into day two, I began dreading going to Facebook. It had become a temple of provocation. Just as my News Feed had drifted further and further right, so too did it drift further and further left. Rachel Maddow, Raw Story, Mother Jones, Daily Kos and all sort of other leftie stuff was interspersed with items that are so far to the right I’m nearly afraid to like them for fear of ending up on some sort of watch list.
Are we really as partisan and polarized as we think we are? Are we being manipulated into it by a computerized algorithm? Maybe we should start talking to each other again – start commenting about why we like and dislike each others’ posts – instead of merely clicking a button and assuming the world is nothing but extremes.
Even more troubling, when you think about it, is The Troubling Link Between Facebook’s Emotion Study and Pentagon Research. It’s one thing to be “the product,” but quite another to realize – with certainty that goes beyond some wild conspiracy theory – that you are a guinea pig in a government and corporate field experiment.
Unfortunately, this research – as is the case with most scientific and technological advances – is valuable and has plenty of positive potential. But it has enough nefarious possibilities to keep Hollywood and a stable of writers happy for generations to come.
WE are being used.
And of course we could shut off all our devices and go back to using snail mail; the USPS, for one, would likely be thrilled to hear it. Imagine getting actual letters, hand-written on dead trees, from friends. Some of you may be too young to remember ever seeing such a thing.
Excuse me while I ponder that.
That’s probably not going to happen. I’m certainly not ready to close my Facebook account and say “Never again!” and no matter how outraged or incensed you may feel about it, I doubt that you are, either. And if not Facebook, then Google. Or your ISP.
Just think about it, be aware of it, and consciously choose what to share.
I think I’ll go tell Facebook I’m a cannibal and see what happens.
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