The world changed when Donald Trump became the president of the United States. Did Facebook fail the democratic world?
Facebook, connects people. That simple sentence might not mean much in a general argument, but when it comes to choices which define the mostly democratic world, a connection, one realises is the most important aspect. But can an idealistic view be called naive? Facebook with its over billion users, has a policy of ‘giving people a voice’ and a free flow of ideas, and that has an effect on the world. The bad news is, Facebook with its hyper personalised newsfeed has operated a ‘cloud of nonsense’ (in the words of Barack Obama). At the risk of sounding a techno-dystopian, the newsfeed has single-handedly divided people, creating opinions of irrational fear and rage by introducing them with conspiracy theories and fake news.
Facebook addiction is a result of the company trying its best to increase the dopamine hits in the blood of the user, appealing to the strongest desires and beliefs. A newsfeed shows comments, user updates and media stories which make the user nod in agreement then being unbiased and also show stories which challenge prejudices or even give a better political overview. Facebook attributes this to its algorithm which is has taken years to develop, but that doesn’t make the company half as responsible. We as users are highly addicted to the social networking website, only because we have become a Yes Man to our personal newsfeed, or rather call it ‘spoonfeed’.
Rationality in humans is a sad story. It is oblivious to prejudices and existing opinions, this is, unless an opposing point of view is reinforced time and again, the brain does not accept it. It is here, that the mob mentality and groupthink do not help at all, which is essentially what Facebook supports. This means that the newsfeed varies from person to person, each day, supporting your views, like a slow poison which slowly engulfs everybody at once. This is not the first time. It has been brought forth by the media time and again, who have asked the tech giant to be more responsible by being a proper ‘editor’ of online content, by producing an unbiased newsfeed, and at least try to segregate credible reporting than fake information.
Facebook clearly does not want to do that, as it believes, if people are angry, it just gives them a platform to vent it. But as a matter of fact, rage needs empathy and not amplification, reasoned discourse not hyperbolizing debates. According to reports, several people have been caught trying to promote conspiracy theories, and all of them have been Trump supporters, which indirectly meant, Clinton stories were not given ad money by the way Facebook algorithm goes.
And it is not as if Facebook is in denial about it. It has repeatedly said that they are a technology company, not a media house, so they will provide the content based on what the user likes to see, as Facebook says, ‘it is good for our business’. It is clear that this election will remain in the memory as one of the most convoluted and hateful results ever, and nothing, absolutely nothing, can explain the selection of a person who used drama, exaggeration, bizarre falsehoods, conspiracy theories, to rise above political ranks. But brains kept under filter bubbles, divided through a newsfeed surely do.
There is still hope, that you-the-user, will one day understand that your hyper-personalised echo chambers will lead you to become a zombie, unable to make your own judgements, not only political but life in general too, because as it is, Facebook does not look like taking any responsibility as a world communication platform for over a billion users. From the point of view of Facebook, only one thing can be said: If they do not get their act together and fix the problem, and if the US loses what distinguishes it from the world, its Liberalism, it won’t be long till companies like Facebook and Google cease to exist.