Facebook’s problems with politics
Facebook has at least one big problem with politics, and I’m not talking about the successful election meddling. The Facebook decisions between 2011 and 2017 about their News Feed surprisingly changed the whole Facebook platform and culture. I argue that Facebook became an addictive content stream rather than a friend-to-friend message space.
One of the results is this trend: people began immediately sharing links and stopped writing out posts and events.
I think Mark Zuckerberg finally accepted this and I hope good changes are happening.
Let Me Try to Explain the Problem
Another Explanation, With More Words
Imagine a person who reads a charged political article. They suddenly have this consuming desire to share it because Facebook has filled them with the idea that people like to read these things. The internet has even convinced you that you like these things. But, the overall response is actually a silent, awkward echo, like sitting in the family room when you yell something extremely offensive about your sister.
About the particular article and sharing experience, here are some other things that are most likely true, sadly:
- The article you shared was written to elicit a strong emotional response. The publishers need it to be shared on Facebook — they need clicks and ad revenue.
- Letting the story develop and investigating multiple angles is not important when the internet makes speed and ads the highest priority.
- You’re making an in-the-moment, emotionally-charged post which alienates friends.
- Internet arguments inevitably ensue.
- It’s really easy to make great lies on the internet.
You cannot win an argument on the internet, according to science
Facebook Makes it Worse
Friends move away from each other because of posts like that. Unfortunately, Facebook’s old News Feed algorithms glorified these posts, by expanding news story summaries, moving them to the top because they’re highly liked, and trying to filter politics per person, creating echo chambers.
The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.
[Evan Williams is a co-creator of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium.]
“What You’re Really Saying When You Post”
In conclusion, here’s a warning: when you immediately post your political article, all your friends hear alarm bells, no matter whether they are in the group that will give you adoration, fake love, and a dopey dopamine addiction, or whether they are in the group that will think you’re an idiot. It will create a divide between some friends and other friends, and Facebook will make it worse. Many modern publishers just want clicks — they abuse you and your News Feed and your Facebook friends.
This Wasn’t Socially Acceptable Before
People did not do this before. Social conversation used to be just like a phone call, starting with a “Hi, I’m looking for …” and a “How are you?”, a little cordiality, and getting to know each other.
We visited, called, or talked to people by first connecting with them. It’s hard to hate someone for their views when you kind of understand where they’re coming from.
In fact, do you remember your parents or your grandparents trying to teach you to be gentle with conversations about politics, religion, disabilities, family members’ poor decisions, and other related topics? Apparently, Facebook — the cybernetic, artificially “intelligent” parent of the 21st century — thinks those values are inappropriate. (I think that quote from Mark Zuckerberg shows a realization that his monster had developed the wrong set of parenting ideals.)
Trends from the Internet
Interestingly, Twitter is experiencing the same curve. Years ago, they changed to mimic Facebook, expanding pictures, videos, and news story links while downplaying text. The effect was the same as Facebook: more arguments and a stronger content fire hose, combined with less friend-to-friend conversation.
Recognizing the problem, Twitter expanded to 280 characters, hoping the small change would encourage more talking due to people wanting to write more.
I guess we can thank the 2016 US Election for one thing: exposing our bigger priority social problems for what they really are.