I Hate Snakes but Keep Seeing Them on Facebook
With all that was said about Facebook’s ability to predict everything about me, I expected them to know all about my Ophidiophobia (a.k.a. fear of snakes), and moreover, do something about it. Long story short: They didn’t.
I hate snakes. I couldn’t even bring myself to find a picture of one for the featured image of this story. That’s how much I hate them. In fact, even typing the name of this freakish reptile scares the bejesus out of me, so from now on we’ll just refer to them as “buddies”. It’s probably also best that we limit my online persona and its association with them— You know, because of algorithms and stuff. Gosh Noah, couldn’t you let this one go?
Okay. Where were we? Right, “buddies”. A story about “buddies”. Here goes:
It was a day like any other. I was scrolling down my Facebook news feed, you know — liking, laughing, rolling my eyes, until I saw it. There it was: A huge vicious “buddy” inside a freakin’ wall somewhere in Australia! Gosh, I get the chills just thinking about it. Instinctively, I hit the “Hide” option, drank a glass of water and moved on with my day. Phew, that was a close one. Thank goodness for the “Hide” option, right?
A couple of days went by. I once again scrolled down my news feed; handing out a few hearts/thumbs up for engagements/births/trips of a lifetime announcements, and moved on. Then, out of nowhere, there it was was again. Disgusting, slimy reptile ssslithering thing sssomewhere in the desert, and I was like — HIDE, HIDE, HIDE! Glass of water. Moved on.
I so hoped this would be the last time I encounter this hideous sight. Little did I know… It wasn’t the last time.
Every now and then (not every day, or even week, mind you), I kept seeing posts related to “buddies”. Even though I made it perfectly clear to Facebook that I was not interested in seeing anything remotely concerning them, they just kept on appearing in groups, pages, posts — you name it. They were always there!
Having assumed that Facebook’s algorithm uses the time you spend on each post as an indicator (or click, or whatever). I kept hiding posts, scrolling down fast and doing whatever I could to break the curse — Anything to break the vicious algorithm. It didn’t work. Though freshly, hydrated, even a glass of water couldn’t do the trick anymore. So, needless to say, I was like:
I’ve been using Facebook since 2006 and with their superior algorithms and copious data, I was almost certain they had this figured out by now: I can’t stand slithering “buddies”, and don’t want to see them anywhere! But my pleas didn’t work. I still see them every now and then, even today.
In all seriousness, this got me thinking: Maybe we have it all wrong about Facebook? Maybe we have it wrong about other multinational tech corporations (MNTCs), too? Here’s what I think:
They’re not doing it on purpose
We tend to focus a lot about how MNTCs (Facebook, Apple, Google, Twitter, etc.) restrict our information, or rather, show us exactly what we want to see for financial gain. What we don’t focus on, is the content we don’t want to see. Content which could actually have the opposite affect. I mean, couldn’t it also be possible that they’re merely displaying what’s “there”?
Personally, there is a plethora of content I am not interested in seeing, and even more content I disagree with — “buddies” may be the worst but there is definitely more. This includes content that I find boring, irrelevant or disturbing, but, I’m “forced” to see it anyway. Not because of Facebook or any other MNTC wants me to see it, but because that’s just what’s popular where I live. It’s what’s trending in the community, amongst my friends, and the groups and pages I follow. It just is, what it is.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the information we acquire is limited. There’s no denying that. However, I find it difficult to believe that this is the negative outcome of MNTCs.
Remember how it was before?
Decades and decades ago, access to information was a lot more meager than it is today. Back in the day, people had to trust authoritative institutions to provide the right information. That was that. Whether we were satisfied with such information or not, that’s all we had. People couldn’t show their dissatisfaction and had to accept the way things were for the most part. Even if they weren’t satisfied, it was much more difficult to know whether others felt the same way. Ultimately, information was hard to come by.
Then boom — Globalization. Masses and masses of information came rolling through and it was hard to know who and what to believe. We made mistakes, believed myths about people swallowing 8 spiders a year, that we only use about 10% of our brain (Ha, those were good), but we also made a lot of good progress.
We were exposed to new viewpoints, beliefs, and people. We learnt about atrocities across the world and helped prevent them. We lent a hand to kids fighting cancer; aided countless families in recovering from natural disasters; assisted the homeless in finding homes, and so much more.
We did a lot of good with these platforms too, presumably more good than we would have otherwise. But it wasn’t all good, of course.
Just as with anything else, there are disadvantages as well. Technological platforms do in fact make it easier to spread information. Conspiracy/new-age theories are probably more common than ever, and it is likely that those persuasive enough, are able to convince quite a bit of people that vaccinating a child is dangerous— Oh wait…
Look, I’m not saying that misinformation is not an issue, but can we really blame MNTCs for it? Couldn’t it also be that we’re only obtaining the information our circles and communities are obtaining anyway? Wasn’t that how things were before Facebook “blessed” us with its presence?
To give a more current example — and going back the the pro/anti vax debate for a moment — The Washington Post recently published an article about an eighteen year old kid who decided to defy his anti-vax mother and got himself vaccinated. He claimed that his mother came to her conclusions after acquiring certain information on Facebook.
People went Bananas.
Many wondered why Facebook was still a thing and why there are still those who choose to use the platform. Nevertheless, and from what I’ve seen, only a hand full of people said anything about the mother. Meaning, more people thought it made sense to blame Facebook for allowing misinformation on its platform, instead of asking why the mother didn’t do more research.
Though I would have preferred to see more comments and articles concerning the mother’s reasoning, no platform made it happen. Not Facebook or any other. So I gave up, and wrote this instead.
Ultimately, Facebook lost a customer because their “algorithm” didn’t provide information that would have essentially been more beneficial to them.
Once again, I couldn’t choose to see what I wanted to see and was left alone to just… Write. Thanks, Facebook.
While it is inarguable that there is a lot more Facebook can do to ensure that the information we obtain is both diverse and credible, it seems to me that we’ve been a little too harsh. After all, it wasn’t any better before they came along, anyway.
Just as individuals have the choice to formulate opinions and decisions based on limited information, they can also choose the opposite. We live in a time where there are enough resources that can help us find the “truth” and it’s up to us to make sure it happens. We can’t always blame Facebook.
With that, I guess I just have to accept the fact that some people around my community might be sadistic enough (kidding) to enjoy learning, hearing or viewing content related to “buddies”. And I guess I’m cool with it. After all, science says every organism has a role in the ecosystem and there’s no way of avoiding it — Even if Facebook and other platforms ever choose to feel otherwise.
After that ramble, I guess all there’s left to do now is pray that the algorithms of the internet don’t misinterpret this story and start showing me content about “buddies”. Please don’t. My twenty-nine year old heart won’t be able to stand it much longer. Or my bladder. Or my water bill. Please.