When Facebook became available to any internet user who wished to “friend” others, I was invited by family and friends to join in this new social media. I declined. My primary reason for declining was that I did not want to wade through tons of pictures of babies, plates of restaurant food, kindergarten drawings or an infinites number of people of all ages blowing out birthday cakes. Little did I suspect that this so- called “social media” would become the news media, of real or alternative news.
The other day I read “Social Insecurity”, and article in the NY Times magazine in which I learned that Mark Zukerberg, the founder of Face Book, still believes in his original concept of helping people communicate with each other using ether. However, he is concerned that Facebook seems to have a greater and greater role in civic discourse through News Feed and “clickbait”. Both of those terms were new to me. If I understand these terms correctly, Facebook monitors the kind of quotations/articles that are popular among its millions of users, then finds additional articles that correspond to what is popular, recommending them to its users. “Clickbait” is the use of catch phrases as headlines that do not reveal the content of an article, but attract viewers to open up said articles to read.
Using algorithms that I positively do not understand (High school algebra threw me. I just about passed the easiest college math that I was forced to take). Nevertheless, Zukerberg and his people know how to use algorithms to determine trends and how to apply them to social media. It appears that the millions of Facebook users are getting their information either non-filtered, or filtered through the minds of persons of like-mindedness. Every opinion on any topic is given equal value. This is a bit scary. A vast number of people are not taking the time to think about things, let alone research facts and figures before arriving at decisions that impact themselves and society. This is the new media that is the message.
Marshall McLuhan must be smiling sadly; Thomas Jefferson must be turning over in his grave.