Post-Truth Feeds and our new uncomfortableness

Shocked and saddened with an extra serving of fear, the feelings that’d I’d had on the EU referendum vote returned and the world took another step away from me. I noticed however that the same voices that decried Brexit were absent from my usual feeds, perhaps because this wasn’t an election we could vote in or perhaps whilst the satire that preceded had given us such LOLs that there wasn’t much to laugh at in the result. Our collective cheeks stinging from the slap aimed to silence us. They won.

I had an interesting day at an event, listening to two American speakers who had come over to spend a few days working with educators and academics, to talk about education and technology. Just like survivors of any disaster they were caught in two minds, whether to gather their strength to rebuild for the future or run back in to help the relief effort, triage the wounded and traumatised.

In the cold light of the result, Facebook struggled to position itself, the place where so much debate, rhetoric, bullshit and discernment had mushed itself like so many playdough colours into one brown, dry lump; denied that they had created the environment for so much post-truth, rumour, lie and insinuation to take place.

Facebook for me, is where I put pictures of my kids so that their grandparents can see them, it’s where I see old friends and classmates getting on with their lives, it’s where I see stupid stuff, people being awesome or awful or whatever. I don’t think I was ever naive or arrogant enough to think everyone shared the same views as I about everything but it’s still a little shocking to read what kind people say when they want to tell you they disagree.

I have of choice, to turn it all off, of course. But as we slowly gravitate to the same niche, people with the same views, the same outlook, then the danger becomes that we don’t challenge, we don’t offer different opinions and that ideas become entrenched. Perhaps a feed shouldn’t be personalised, maybe if all you want from facebook is cat videos, then you should be made to watch the occasional dog doing stupid things too. I’m not just saying this about FB too, our whole internet experience is tailored to the personalised outlook of the individual logging in.

We live our lives in filtered bubbles, sheltered from opposing viewpoints.

The Guardian recently experimented by creating two separate facebook profiles, resulting in opposing feeds. It asked people to dip into these feeds and see what life looked like from the other side.

It was fascinating reading the results, with one of the most common reflections being that people unfollowed others who they felt didn’t share their point of view.

“I did unfollow a lot of friends because I didn’t want to feel enticed to correct what they were saying and get in a fight,”

I realised reading this article that the bubble is a pernicious danger, that we need, as one of the American speakers at the event last week said, to expose ourselves to views which aren’t palatable to us, so that we can challenge them. I know that works both ways and I know that it’s hard to fight non-truth with truth, but we have to.

We have to act in whatever small brave ways we can

It’s really tempting to turn inwards even more, ensure our streams only carry things we like, but every intervention plays its part, we need to take every opportunity to challenge what we know is wrong, what we know to be untrue and what we want to change.

Stay strong people, it’s going to be bumpy.

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