More than two years ago, I started an experiment with Facebook: I hide the sources I don’t want to see anymore. I started with the Buzzfeed quizzes, then moved on to the radio stations and their silly news stories. I hid the parody sites, the viral meme sites, the sports teams’ sites.
But I kept some news sites. The Wall Street Journal. NPR. OPB. The Washington Post. The NY Times.1Turns out, I noted this in a footnote in a previous post. ‘Course, you probably already noticed that, being the type that reads footnotes and all… ;-)
These are reputable sources. I shouldn’t have to worry about them, right?
Facebook doesn’t see itself as a news media company.2It’s an ad serving company. It sells eyeballs to advertisers. It fired its human editors and replaced them with an algorithm.
Facebook’s algorithm’s goal is not to keep us educated and informed, to show us a balanced cross-section of news. Instead, Facebook wants to keep us on Facebook. It does that by watching us closely and determining what our political views are.3Thanks to all those Facebook “like” buttons across the web, Facebook knows what you read on the internet. Then it feeds us news that agrees with our biases.
It doesn’t matter that I haven’t blocked a news source with a different political perspective. Facebook won’t show it to me. Facebook wants to keep me happy — and as a byproduct, ignorant.
I made a decision to expand my Facebook experiment: no news on Facebook, period.4Yeah, I know. I’ll still see news from those sources I haven’t yet blocked. But only once. It has made a huge difference in my Facebook newsfeed. I see more baby pictures, more vacation pictures, and more statuses.
I’ll get my news elsewhere.5For those that are interested, that elsewhere currently is Twitter. I intentionally follow people with whom I disagree. They are good at finding those sources I’ll have the most difficulties with.