aNewDomain — You’re doing it wrong.
I usually call Facebook “Fakesbook” in my columns here, mostly because of the rich soil it provides fake news and photoshopped photos and mis-attributed quotes. But it’s still a good way to stay in touch with friends from school I haven’t seen in a decade or three and maybe don’t really need to, people from work I’d prefer not to actually hang out with in person, and various groups with like minds.
I hang out in a couple of writers’ groups and the humanistic psychology page. I have something like 800 friends, mostly acquaintances, long-losts and colleagues.
Periodically, a friend will delete their Fakesbook account. That’s called Facebook Suicide. They cite politics and banal arguments as the reasons for this. It’s not easy to permanently delete your Facebook account, but it’s possible. If you don’t want to go that far, though, I’m here to help you achieve a better, less annoying Facebook feed.
First you need to stop letting Fakesbook track so much of what you do. It tracks your web searches, what sites you open, and especially what you “like” and “share” on Fakesbook. The system will be much less annoying when you limit the amount of information Facebook gets on your browsing habits.
So just open a new browser window whenever you surf the web. Always do this.
We all check Fakesbook first. Facebook knows this. We’re crack addicts, searching for approval. Or you’re searching for crack, I don’t know you. And when Fakesbook is the first page open, it can keep track of where you go from there.
The other day I looked for movies to see if there was anything my little boy might enjoy, and a minute later the whole right side of my feed was ads for Jurassic World.
So, after Fakesbook, close your window and open a new one, or open a private browsing session, or use a different program.
Secondly, try to have some discipline about what you like and share.
If it is a meme with “Like and share if you don’t want to murder puppies” in it, or some other emotionally manipulative bullshit, you don’t want to like and share it. Really, you don’t.
Sometimes it’s a screen full of 9’s and there’s an 8 in it someplace and it says “Share if you found the 8 in under a minute.” Or “Bet you can’t name a city without an A in it.” Um, Denver? Kiev? London? You feel smart because you beat the stupid challenge, then you add your name to the list of marks. Don’t do this.
Fakesbook has business pages.People make up these memes and stuff to expand their “reach,” which means the number of people who will see their posts.
Your reach on Fakesbook is a business metric. If you have lots of it, you can charge more money for your services.
Liking and sharing manipulative bullshit is expanding the reach of folks who don’t really deserve it – and who might misuse it.
If you get a good comment chain going on something, you can even start to map out who is friends with whom.
So you’ll see trollish sorts of stuff out there, some hateful rant, and it’ll have about a thousand arguments underneath it.
And everyone who fell for it is on the list for ad targeting.
Don’t like, share or click on anything but baby photos or live comments
Fakesbook itself keeps track of your likes and shares, too.
Maybe your feed starts out politically neutral. You’re friends with liberals and conservatives. But you argue with one kind of friend, and “like” and “share” posts from another kind of friend. Guess what? Pretty soon, your biases are evident in your newsfeed. You only see the kinds of posts the machine has figured out you want to see.
This makes you dumber. You start to get the impression everyone is a flat-Earther, just like you. And you’ll get the dumb idea that popular support for your ideas reinforces them to the point that no rational argument can sway you.
We’ve become an extremely polarized civilization due to these sorts of effects, and Fakesbook isn’t making things better.
Last year, Fakesbook was pissing me off. I’d see political news 3 of every 5 items. Now I have a political bias, but it was giving me stuff way out from the fringes of that bias. And its opposite, because I’d get embroiled in correcting other peoples’ biases which, because they disagreed with mine, must have been fatal mistakes.
I don’t want to be pissed off in my leisure time. I want to look at pictures of clouds, feel superior to the people I went to school with in England and tell a few jokes.
So I stopped commenting on, liking or sharing any links at all.
I only interact with pictures people have taken themselves, and posts they have typed in with their fingers. The reaction from Fakesbook was almost immediate: many fewer political posts, fake news stories, links and so on; many more baby pictures, cat pictures, photos and stories from my old school mates who haven’t aged as well as I have.
I’m not saying it’s your fault all your friends are smug fundamentalist partisans, I’m saying you tell Facebook how to keep you looking at their material by liking and commenting on it.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover image: Flat Earth Society, antanteanconspiracy.com, All Rights Reserved.