Remember when social networks first came about, and the basic idea was that, as a user, you chose who you wanted to follow, and then your feed, or timeline, etc. showed you what just those people had shared, in reverse chronological order?
Had they stuck with that, there would be a lot less to complain about when it comes to fake news, hate speech, etc.
“There were a lot of lies, to be clear. Most of them have to do with algorithms and the promise algorithms held for creating not just growth, but good growth, in every sense of the word. This trend predates Facebook and the blame for it cannot be laid solely at Facebook’s door, but Facebook exemplifies its most noxious outcomes. In his many speeches, Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly declared that Facebook’s overriding goal is to foster community and closeness, to bring people together, to connect them. This sounds fundamentally good and wholesome when considered in a personal context.
But that’s not what Facebook is today. And when confronted with that reality over the past two years, Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow executives repeatedly refused to face it.”
Once they took control over what users saw, they asked for all of this. Yes, by taking that control they could encourage us to spend more time on the sites, reading more, watching more, sharing more, but they didn’t recognize the responsibility they took along with that, and how much people would try and game those decisions.
They should have. Twitter, YouTube, FaceBook, and now even Instagram have all failed in this regard, and taken the idea of connecting people by letting them simply follow each other, or not follow each other, and completely bastardized it.
As a user, we don’t have enough control over what we see, but we also need to do a better job of using social media to do what it was originally meant to do, follow people you actually want to hear from, a list you’ve chosen thoughtfully, and use the incomplete tools that we have to make sure we are doing just that. As long as we continue to click along with what they suggest we look at, they will keep feeding it to us, and as long as we continue to chase after likes and engagement, we’ll be at the mercy of the algorithms. Stop, use the tools thoughtfully. Connect with one person at a time. Have a reason to even look at social media to start with, that isn’t just because the phone is there.