As a social media strategist, I like to think I have a pretty decent grasp on all the major platforms. But when I realized that my perfectly curated feeds, the ones I had spent years crafting and Facebook had spent hundreds of millions on developing, were playing a deceitful trick on me, I began to question the way we all use our social networks.
“This can’t be real.” “How could this happen?” “What have we done?”
That’s a pretty solid representation of every social timeline I have access to, and I’m more aware than ever that not one comment, not one status, is excited and congratulatory. I scrolled and scrolled until Facebook did that weird thing where it was struggling to populate content and still, no “Congrats to President Trump!”. I’m from Saratoga County, NY, which voted red this year, and I have many friends and acquaintances who call that and the surrounding red areas home. So after the initial shock of a Trump presidency began wearing off, I asked myself How were we all so wrong? Well, it depends on what we you’re asking.
Our social presences are extensions of ourselves, so it would make sense that we’d expect content we enjoy to be served to us. Puppy videos, that’s easy. Game of Thrones fan clubs, piece of cake. Facebook makes major bucks ensuring we’re happy with the content that we see. And in my mind that was working, until now.
I’ve questioned a lot over the last 24 hours, but one thing I know for sure is that social media and the news media using social has created biases unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We all, every single one of us, have to make some attitudinal and behavioral changes on social, and fast. The algorithms won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, but there are ways we can hack them to stay more informed on topics and groups we’ve shunned away.
Here’s what you can do to mitigate those biases.
“Like” or engage with a wide variety of news outlets.
This is a simple way to confuse algorithms and allow a wider perspective in your feeds. Read with an open mind and allow it to be in your feeds. Fox News sucks for Democrats and Vox is Hell on Earth for Republicans, I get it, but by doing so we can stay informed on what the other side of our country is thinking and feeling.
Don’t unfollow or unfriend people who don’t share your beliefs.
This is a killer. The algorithm doesn’t stand a chance against this one. You’re exacerbating the problem when you cast others out. By keeping their content in your feed, you have a chance to see a different perspective. I personally am out of touch with what’s happening in my home town, and I’d like to be more informed even if that means seeing a kid I went to junior high with sharing shirtless selfies of himself in the bathroom. Engage with a variety of posts, start discussions, and stop threatening to throw people out of your life.
The more types of people that engage with your content, the better the chance they’ll show up in your feed and vice versa. If someone posts something that you’d like more context on, ask. If something seems fishy, fact check it and report the results. You don’t have to engage all the time, just do it enough to make Facebook notice.
Stop sharing bogus shit.
This one is so important. Stop sharing unsubstantiated news. It lingers and grows and devours everything it comes in contact with. It creates unnecessary fear and completely screws with people on the platform. I’m sure you’ve unfollowed someone after seeing that Trump People Magazine 1998 bogus interview for the umpteenth time, and now you won’t have access to anything they’re saying.
Be conscious of the echo chamber.
Just knowing it’s there has drastically changed my behaviors. I’m way more conscious of how my newsfeed looks and who is being represented in it. If you’re seeing a ton of the same thing, dig into your friend or following list and see what’s going on. I’m planning on creating lists on Twitter (yes, those still exist) so that my main feed can stay curated while having the option to check in on topics that might make me a bit uncomfortable.
Be open to the fact that other people in this country have valid opinions, and that not everything is black and white.
Liberals are elitist and conservatives are bigots. That’s all I keep hearing. But it’s not that simple. We’ve all been sequestered away in our little nooks, both sides of the coin. We have to become more comfortable with the idea that listening and trying to understand where someone is coming from is vital to our existence as human beings.
Keep in mind, the social echo chamber works BOTH ways. No matter who you are or where you live, there’s a relative opposite somewhere out there in these great states of ours, as many of us just realized in crash-course fashion.
Globally, people spend 50 minutes a day on Facebook (IMO that’s a low estimate). That’s a long ass time. We all can dedicate five of those minutes to getting to know our brothers and sisters a little better. Because in order to be a country of, by, and for the people, we need to allow deplorables and elitists a chance to be heard.