It never ceases to amaze me how many people holding controversial views on say the subversive plans of governments, or secret illuminati organisations, or any of the other popular conspiracies, use arguably the biggest conspiratorial organisation of all time as the go-to source for the very opinions on the topics that they espouse.
Facebook is one big conspiracy. It conspires to look like a useful & interesting place to spend time, whilst using that time to manipulate the way you think and behave in subtle and not so subtle ways.
Not only does it hold total and absolute control over what information you are seeing, but its artificial intelligence algorithms interact with your brains in ways designed specifically to control how it responds.
Most of the time that is to try to get you to buy stuff. But it is also to get you to buy ideas, views and opinions. This is why political parties, social tribal groups and even darker forces spend so much time (and money) to reach you in various ways.
Forget about secret computer chips being inserted into you via the COVID-19 vaccine. Facebook injects itself into your brain every day.
For many people, Facebook has become their primary way of interacting or ‘surfing’ the interwebs. If it isn’t served up to you on Facebook (either by algorithms or by people in your social media acquaintance bubble reposting it) you are unlikely to go exploring it yourself. Finding alternative views or testing the veracity of information yourself is pushed aside by the desire to like, comment, criticise and scroll on to the next post in case there is something better you are missing.
Spoiler alert: there isn’t.
But there are alternatives.
Feedly is a free app (it also has optional paid extras) that allows you to subscribe to the RSS feeds of information sources you are interested in. You control your diet of information. You get to explore where you want to go.
For example, you might want to follow some news services such as the BBC, Reuters and local news websites. You can add those DIY craft sites and that mountain bike blogger you like to follow. You can also include YouTube channels you frequently watch.
I have set up my own Feedly app with various categories, so I can browse only the latest posts from a particular topic or dive into the whole shebang. I check it each morning and think of it as a sort of digital morning paper.
The ability to scroll and read sources that I trust, and without feeling a need to respond and comment is quite liberating. If particular posts link out to other sites that interest me I might add their feeds so I can check them out later.
So instead of getting sucked into an endless scroll of Facebook, I control my feed myself. That’s not to say I can’t go down some fringe-topic rabbit hole if I want to. But that’s up to me, not Facebook.
As I always say… Facebook isn’t totally evil. There are many instances where it helps people connect and get support in ways that they would not otherwise have access to.
The trick is to separate out those useful aspects without getting sucked into the endless scroll.
Facebook wants you to be engaged, emotionally aroused, and addicted to consuming its ecosystems.
Try using Facebook to stay connected with friends and your local community.
Try Feedly to control the bulk of your information diet.
After all….you are what you eat.
- Check out the Wikipedia entry on the Criticism of Facebook
- How Facebook, Google algorithms feed on hate speech, rage