Facebook and The Filter Bubble

Anyone who uses Facebook knows that they rolled out a redesign this week and there are more changes coming. The usual round of high dudgeon followed, though people (myself included) don’t actually stop using it.

I have reduced my usage though. I don’t log in as often or spend as much time on there. Mostly because the “Top News” has taken the place of the old, chronological News Feed, and this goes against how I use FB and how I want to use it. I like the plain old, unfiltered stream of updates and likes and such. I can control it. I can keep or rid myself of whatever I don’t want to read. And there were a few people that I removed because their posts or their tone or whatever bothered me. But the control was in my hands.

Not so much any more. I’m at the mercy of the mysterious, unknowable Facebook algorithm that has decided who I am and what I want to see. .

I recently read The Filter Bubble, by Eli Pariser which is a fascinating look at the realities and possibilities of too much web personalization. I highly recommend it for anyone concerned about websites deciding what we want to see.

We all need to realize that on Facebook, we are not the customers. We’re the product. Facebook couldn’t give a hooping funt about connecting us to each other and allowing us to share. They want us using the service so they can harvest our information and sell it and us to their advertisers. At this point, for most of us, our buy in to FB is so strong that it’s hard to get free. But that’s the only way. Writing bitchy status updates won’t affect anything. Sending them complaints won’t affect anything. The only thing that will affect them is logging in less. Clicking less. Staying away until their numbers drop. The only thing that will effect any change will be to hurt their bottom line with advertisers.

I doubt I could give it up completely. I have an author page there, and I’m mercenary enough to know that I need that presence if I’m going to market myself and my book in the new year. But I log in less and less to keep track of my friends, because I have no idea if I’m seeing what they’re doing, because I have no idea what the algorithm is keeping from me. And that defeats the purpose for me.

I’m on Google+ and I like it a lot, but there aren’t nearly as many people there. They buy in just hasn’t happened yet. Which is unfortunate, as there, I can control what I see from others and what others see of me. I’m not at the mercy of software rules that are being kept from me.

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