I just read an interview with tech people who founded the internet & social media. They were appalled at how their idealism and naivite has shaped up into a nightmare. But one thing stood out for me: how algorithms have changed. Timelines used to to emphasize likes (remember the days of mostly cat videos?). Now it’s all about driving engagement. That’s what advertisers are looking for. And “free” social media is all about getting ads. So what drives engagement?
They’re basically trying to trigger fear and anger to get the outrage cycle going, because outrage is what makes you be more deeply engaged. (Roger McNamee)
And that feeds the trolls. Russian trolls & others aiming to disrupt democracy manipulate us by playing on either righteous anger or bigotry. They don’t care which–they’re out to stir us up, to sow chaos and hate.
So if social media is really about connecting people, as Mark Zuckerberg claims, and not about destroying the fabric of civil society, let’s do it. Let’s take it back by engaging with positive content on social media. Let’s have meaningful interactions with actual friends. Let’s stop feeding the trolls.
I can imagine someone saying, but shouldn’t we be aware of social problems? Yes–and so subscribe to the news sources that you trust. Read blogs. I recommend progressive bloggers. But if you’re of another political persuasion–that’s fine. In our democracy, we can have different opinions. We can have conversations. Talk to me. Get involved irl. If something is really critical, sure share it on social media, share it everywhere…but be wary. Because it will make the trolls pat their stomachs and burp.