I wish Facebook did more

People who keep up with tech & media news, analysis and research are well aware of how Facebook is the destination for news and information consumption for a large majority of the people. For those who don’t consciously think about the role Facebook plays in determining the food diet for our brains, Facebook is just an app we pull up when we have a few minutes to catch up with updates from friends, watch videos and maybe read a few links when we are standing in lines, commenting in subways, getting bored or killing time in between doing two things.

It is scary how many people either don’t know or don’t care enough to learn how the news feed works. Even a very superficial understanding of how it works without any technical knowledge would be helpful in knowing that the feed shows what we want to see after consistent usage over time.

I have had conversations with so many people who think that Facebook shows them everything there is to know. They are convinced that just because they scroll through their feeds and read a lot of links that publications they follow throw at them, they are well informed and have no blind spots. I have seen shock on faces when I tell people that a lot of what they see is based on they have seen in the past, what they have liked and shared, and what their friends have read, seen, liked or shared. In other words, avoiding much nuance to prove a point, what we see on our feeds is most likely what our friends see and what we want to see.

Facebook is like that friend who always knows what we want to hear and who always wants to be nice even if its acting against our interests in the long run. Without conscious effort and awareness, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you are broadening your thought process, learning about different things and not being prone to cognitive biases when you actually are doing the opposite of that.

I understand that educating the normal public on how exactly the feed algorithms work is probably at odds with Facebook’s business and product interests. I wish people, who rely on Facebook a lot, took the time to get a very basic understanding of how they see what they see in the app. I wish schools, colleges and companies did more to educate people on how the products they use daily work in simplest terms and how they affect their brains. The least they could do is to encourage people to at least be somewhat curious about why they do what they do and why they think the way they do.