What Facebook Fed the Boomers [Content Made Simple]

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This is SUCH a fascinating piece on what older folks are seeing on Facebook.



Despite Facebook’s reputation as a leading source for conspiracy theories and misinformation, what goes on in most average Americans’ news feeds is nearly impossible for outsiders to observe. Tools like CrowdTangle, which track “engagements” with social media posts, are the best available means to understand what is popular on the platform, though Facebook (which owns the CrowdTangle) argues that CrowdTangle is not a reliable indicator for how many people saw a post.

After years of reading about the ways that Facebook is radicalizing and polarizing people I wanted to see it for myself — not in the aggregate, but up close and over time. What I observed is a platform that gathered our past and present friendships, colleagues, acquaintances and hobbies and slowly turned them into primary news sources. And made us miserable in the process.


This article may trigger some folks, and I understand. But I am growing increasingly concerned with the ways in which social media platforms (especially Facebook) are affecting our older friends and family. Whether it is in regard to the coronavirus or some other important issue, my concern is that people are following content they find funny or politically agreeable and it is hurting them in some tangible ways long-term.


Nothing new this week!


Link #1: The Modern World Is Too Complex for Any of Us to Understand

“No one’s driving” is such a prescient metaphor for where we are at technologically. Jesus take the wheel, I guess.

I am here to tell you that the reason so much of the world seems incomprehensible is that it is incomprehensible. From social media to the global economy to supply chains, our lives rest precariously on systems that have become so complex, and we have yielded so much of it to technologies and autonomous actors that no one totally comprehends it all.

In other words: No one’s driving. And if we hope to retake the wheel, we’re going to have to understand, intimately, all of the ways we’ve lost control. This is the first entry in a series — called, yes, No One’s Driving — that aims to do exactly that. Each month, we’ll examine a technological system that has grown too complex to be understood by, well, just about any one person, and break down how it has spiraled out of control, why that is dangerous, and what we might do about it.

Link #2: Facebook Is Going After Its Critics in the Name of Privacy

Facebook wants to “protect the privacy of its users” by banning a privacy watchdog from monitoring ad targeting on the platform. Sheesh.

Facebook has threatened legal action against the Ad Observatory team, claiming that the Ad Observer plug-in violates its terms of service. They want it removed by the Monday after Thanksgiving, or else. In other words, Facebook wants independent, third-party scrutiny of its ad policy enforcement to end at the very moment that its enforcement failures are allowing false claims about the outcome of the 2020 election to spread, challenging the legitimacy of American democracy itself. This deadline also roughly coincides with Facebook’s reinstatement of political advertising. In other words, the company is opening the door to far more paid political disinformation at the very same moment that it is shutting out independent watchdogs who monitor this stuff.

Link #3: Public Discourse in the Age of Social Media

From me! :-) If you aren’t a subscriber and can’t read this, you can get a year for just $1 here.

We are bombarded with so much content via social media that is asking us to act that we cannot be expected to act upon it all. Postman writes, “How often does it occur that information provided you on morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not have otherwise taken, or provides some insight into some problem you are required to solve?”

If we’re honest when we answer this question in regard to social media, most of us would respond, “Not often.”

We cannot be expected to address every problem we are told we must solve by the people or organizations we follow on Twitter or other such platforms. The idea that we are able to solve human trafficking or world hunger by posting a picture with a shirt on or some marker drawn on our hands breeds slacktivism and ultimately cheapens the importance of the work that needs to be done.


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