If you shared the WSJ Red Feed-Blue Feed article, I sure hope you aren’t one of the people unfriending particular friends

On testing your personal commitment to the increasingly trendy “E”-word — Empathy — during difficult times

If you were smart enough to understand, then share, the Wall Street Journal filter bubble experiment; then, I hope you’re patient and kind enough not to unfriend people you disagree with.

The entire point of the analysis in that article was that Facebook is gradually breeding divisiveness through (unconsciously) filtering the type of content a person sees.

The basic Facebook premise is that: you will end up seeing more of the type of posts (and accounts) that you engage with.

The more you and your circle view, like, share, comment on a post, the more it’s prioritized in your feed.

More engagement; more exposure.

Which is why — in the U.S., Democrats started seeing more like-minded content; and Republicans started seeing more like-minded content.

(I know — Facebook has repeatedly debunked this through their analysis and statements; saying that their data shows that people are still more or less equally exposed to topics from “the other side”. However, what I hear about in the wider media proves otherwise*.)

Out of sight; out of mind

What scares me is that I see more and more posts from my countrymen about unfriending “friends” who don’t share their views.

If you feel that Facebook’s tendency to create “filter bubbles” is harmful — then, you must also understand that the moment we consciously turn our eyes away from the opinions of people who we don’t agree with — the more misunderstanding and divisiveness it breeds.

It’s the same way that Hillary and Trump voters started seeing two different ideologies, two different Americas. They didn’t expose themselves enough to what the “other side” cared about. It made each other “strangers”, rather than countrymen and citizens, fellow voters to coexist with.

I want to unfriend people, too.

I won’t be a hypocrite, though. I’ve long wanted to unfriend people who annoy me online. And I’ve unfollowed people** (I think two people now) in the past. I’ve also admired the people who are able to “clean their Facebook contact list” and “friend” only the people they truly care about.

However, restricting your feed to the people you truly know and love in real life is not the same as restricting your feed to only the people whose opinions you can take.

A collection of statements I’ve been exposed to these past few days. Interestingly enough, upon further analysis, my friends and family were actually requesting that people unfriend them.

Because, the truth is, the country and cities we live in, wherever we are in the world, are populated with people we’ll have ideological disagreements with. There are non-negotiables, of course, that are different for each of us (Like, I can’t see how I could be friends with someone who believes eating other humans is fun and acceptable).

I know, it’s tough. I know. I also understand that we’re free to follow and unfollow who ever the eff we want.

Every time I have an illogical post about politics, history or the government crop up in my feed — I either want to think ill will upon the person, screenshot then comment smarmily, or block him.

But. This is why I ask for this as a favor. I just ask for the favor of extending our patience as long as we humanly can.

Think of the grander repercussions of fighting emotionally-ridden misinformation with hate, or “closing your eyes to the world”. It’s pretty much fighting (bigoted) fire with (bigoted) fire.

If more people keep doing this, then, I pray that it works, in the same way that it works for some forest fires. But, human dynamics says otherwise.

“When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No. Our motto is: When they go low, we go high.” (Obama, 2016)

The best way to soothe savagery is through bringing the illogical energy and emotion down. It’s hard to reason with people when they’re fueled by emotional antagonism. It’s the better way to deal with toddlers, narcissistic corporate bosses and general angry people.

Stay human. As much as you can.

The solution is to stay human. And to keep seeing our countrymen as humans. Not as -tards (blind supporter of the Duterte administration). Not as “ignorant people”. Not as “dilawan” (blind supporter of the Aquino administration). Not as “bayaran” (person whose support you can pay for). Not as “baskets of deplorables”. The grouping and clustering is convenient, but not the best way to achieve a solution together.

Cautionary tale; but also admirable

Our tendency to “unfriend” scares me — I feel like it’s the slippery slope towards a national divide that will take years to heal (Republicans vs Democrats; liberal vs conservative; college-educated vs non-college-educated — as America’s voting patterns are beginning to show.)

But, at the same time, I wish we could learn from the Democrat response to losing the U.S. election — the losing candidates continued to call for working together, not against. That the main point is still to continue fighting for respect for diversity regardless of who won.

I‘m afraid of the finger-pointing that’s happening these days.

Where people who didn’t vote for the current president keep accusing those who voted for the current administration that “they” (the Duterte voters) decided this, as if they (the non-Duterte voters) will only support the government if their candidate (not Duterte) won.

And, this was precisely the problem that the American (liberal) media had about Donald Trump’s announcement that he might not accept the election results if he lost.

It seemed like the mark of a sore loser. It defied one of the basic principles of democracy, which is the electoral system (the main thing that other types of government don’t have).

This is also why media outfits lauded Hillary for being a class act, and conceding the way she did. She knew how to respect the choice of the electoral system — even if someone with completely different values would now be leading a country that she has worked and studied harder for.

I wish, at the very least, that every friend of mine who shared the Wall Street Journal Filter Bubble article doesn’t unfriend friends that they disagree with.

I urge only you, because I feel that, by the act of sharing that article, you also feel that our social media feed/s shouldn’t breed division based on algorithm-facilitated politics, which could spell future consequences.

A test of endurance

This is a test of patience for all of us.

If you feel you know better; if you feel you’re intelligent and educated enough to understand that social media has the tendency to divide networks into echo chambers, then please don’t consciously contribute to it.

I know it’s painful, and stressful, to get up in the morning and see hateful comments on your feed.

But it’ll be more painful to live in a world where all the posts that you see are from the people just like you. But, your next president is someone who 80% of your country elected, because they felt that the 20% that you were a part of were against them.

*A personal theory about why Facebook’s data science seems to run against pop media perception (“filter bubbles”). Exposure is not the same as attention.

Facebook’s findings may state that the same distribution of politically-leaning stories are surfaced by the newsfeed as is, but “confirmation bias” makes human beings more attuned to the articles that support their beliefs already anyway. So even if the Facebook feed reportedly shows a mix, people may be tuning it out, which is compounded by the impact of the likes and shares from their circle.

**On how and why I unfollow people. I have unfollowed people, and I do feel like unfollowing a few more people these days, but I’m trying my hardest to hold out. (I’m afraid that, by tuning out these people, the less I’ll be in touch with the sentiment of people who represent the [louder] majority who are driving social media noise.)

Having said that, I will share my personal reasons for unfollowing people last year:

  • When the urge to unfollow hits, I usually try to wait it out and see how their posts impact me on a day-to-day basis. In a way, I feel like it’s a test of being “the bigger person”. If I let their posts get to me, then I have to look at what that says about me and my emotional maturity.
  • If or when the urge to unfollow persists, I’ve processed that it comes down to two (2) reasons: 1) Even the person’s posts about his/her personal life make me feel sorry/angry for the people I care about that he/she affects in their life. (And, I completely acknowledge that that means I‘ve given up on dealing with it), and 2) The time and energy I spend annoyed with them and how they conduct themselves for a living (emphasis on the fact that I talk about their day-job. Meaning it isn’t just their opinion I disagree with; the very way they conduct their working life bugs me) would be better spent thinking of constructive things for my work and life.
  • I use “See less from” for contacts who routinely share content/links from hoax-y sources. That I automatically do. For the sheer belief that I want the Facebook algorithm to learn that I do not want to see content from hoax-y, conspiracy-promoting information outlets (aargh “Trending News Portal” and “Wise Mind Healthy Body”.)