How Dare I Assume Readers are Open Minded?

I Read A Lot, and it occurred to me a few weeks back that I should share a link in each newsletter to something I found interesting. I describe what it is so that readers can decide if they might also find it interesting, but I sure didn’t expect one reaction from this week’s “plug” of an article, from Vox’s “Recode” sub-publication, which is about “Uncovering and explaining how our digital world is changing — and changing us.”

The title: “Why Some Biologists and Ecologists Think Social Media Is a Risk to Humanity”. Sounds like important stuff!

New reader Angela in Washington DC brought this concept to me when she said she heard of True in “Fecebook”. Perfect.

It fits in with what I’ve been saying myself. The essay, by Shirin Ghaffary*, is here.

I commented, “I’ve said that I thought Facebook (especially) is evil. I’m not the only one, and it gets both worse and more specific,” and linked to the article. I also mentioned that I do still post to Facebook (and a couple of other places) because I have many followers who I’m hoping to attract to read more thought-provoking material, rather than the mindless junk food from “doom scrolling.”

Jordan in California

Jordan, a 20-year Premium subscriber, was first to comment — he was clearly thinking (edited slightly for brevity):

I have come to agree that Facebook is evil, but I’d be interested to know why you think so. I think it’s evil because FB has set itself up as a judge of what is and is not misinformation, of what theories are and are not acceptable to talk about.

Algorithmic selection of how material is presented is worrisome because of the “echo chamber” effect, where if you’ve expressed an interest in X you will be given more X, so pretty soon X dominates your world.

Human selection is worse, because it means that the cabal decides what people see and talk about.

[But] even in areas where I might agree with them, do I think that opposing discussion should be suppressed? No.

Why? (I replied.) Mainly because they design Facebook to be addictive. Misinformation? Just more engagement! They thus encourage it.

But I’m less concerned about what they allow to be discussed: it’s their platform, and if they don’t want people talking about ice cream, fine: ban such discussions. That said, being so arbitrary about it — and in their responses when challenged when they spank over things that aren’t actually in their rules — is a problem, and ties in to “evil” IMO.

I’m not sure if “algorithmic selection” is “evil,” but it does add to the problem. So does their “suppression” when it becomes so arbitrary, whether done by AI or humans.

“Bottom line is,” I concluded to Jordan, “the essay I linked gives food for thought, even if you don’t agree with every conclusion.”

Not Entirely Evil

It’s not that I think Facebook and other social media is valueless: it’s great that we can stay in touch with old friends and family, and find groups to share niche interests with. We just have to work to shut down what Facebook tries to shove down our throats: I’m ruthless in “unfollowing” various “friends” that I’m not actually interested in knowing about their everyday lives, photos of their kids that I haven’t met, etc.

Plus I won’t even accept a friend request when I can’t remember exactly who they are and where I met them, so it’s extremely rare that I’ll accept a request from someone I’ve not met in real life.

Then There’s Sharon, Also in California

She had quite a different tack:

Of most concern is the fact that you are touting as good reading an article that quite openly supports mass media – and social media – lies. To condone a source that condemns any sources that provide real, honest, verifiable and objective information about masks and vaccines is the pot calling the kettle black. I’m truly saddened that you are a person who apparently believes only the marginalized mainstream litany of truth. Very disappointing.

Why don’t you take me off your subscription list as a result.

Thanks much

Um, you’re welcome?

So… you think I should be responsible for everything that some other writer in some other publication that I’m not associated with in any way, and have merely mentioned is “interesting reading”? You actually believe I agree with everything in every piece I read or point out?

Well, that “thought” would be freaking stupid.

Hell, I couldn’t have told you that the essay had even talked about “masks and vaccines.” I was simply intrigued by the thesis that “while some social scientists, journalists, and activists have been raising concerns about how [social media] is affecting our democracy, mental health, and relationships, we haven’t seen biologists and ecologists weighing in as much” — and now they have.

Ah, There It Is!

For example, the paper says that tech companies have fumbled their way through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, unable to stem the ‘infodemic’ of misinformation that has hindered widespread acceptance of masks and vaccines.

…the only use of “masks and vaccines” in the entire piece, which doesn’t even editorialize — that’s simply a quote: see the quotation marks? I bolded them in the segment above especially for Sharon.

“Algorithmic selection of how material is presented is worrisome because of the ‘echo chamber’ effect, where if you’ve expressed an interest in X you will be given more X, so pretty soon X dominates your world,” Jordan wrote above.

Man: talk about a great example of that.

Because one little aside in a lengthy piece doesn’t resonate with Sharon’s tiny worldview, she not only slams her eyes shut to the essay in some other publication, she demands never to see a publication she liked enough to have read for more than ten years (and pay for over the past several years!)

Oh boo hoo.

Obviously, Sharon thus has no subscriptions to any newspaper, because they certainly talk about things that are contrary to her narrow world view — no TV shows (fiction or news), no magazines, no professional publications, and hell, no friends because they might say something about masks or vaccines or something else she disagrees with! Eeek!

Well, that’s absolutely guaranteed, isn’t it?

Can you say “Echo chamber, chamber, amber, mber, ber, r!”?

For shit sake how many times can I say that True is about thinking before it actually causes someone to think?

“To be open-minded,” writes Wayne Riggs, a professor at the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Philosophy, in the journal Metaphilosophy, “is to be aware of one’s fallibility as a believer, and to acknowledge the possibility that anytime one believes something, one could be wrong.” (emphasis added)

Not Sharon: she actively shuts down anyone who innocently points out someone else has a different idea than she has. She is not only closed-minded, she wants to be sure she stays that way.

Not exactly the sort that should be a This is True reader. Or… is that the sort of person that should be a This is True reader?! Wouldn’t that make this a better world?

What’s your take? The Comments are open.

* I find it notable that author Shirin Ghaffary’s Ethics Statement is considerably longer than her bio.

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38 Comments on “How Dare I Assume Readers are Open Minded?

  1. Just the picture of “fecebook” cracked me up before I read the rest.

    I read that same article and I was a bit concerned that the (to me) obvious solution of teaching people to be able to think at a young age is the only solution, albeit it is a solution requiring a generation, which means in our 5 second attention span world it will probably never happen. Except it IS happening in spite of all the obstacles being put in the way.

    Bear with me while I slightly digress: I just finished watching “The Men Who Built America”, something I had recorded from the History Channel back when it actually did history. 🙂 I was struck that without those monopolies and monopolistic practices we probably wouldn’t have everything we have today. Yet those monopolies and practices had many bad things associated with them as well.

    Fast forward to today and we essentially see the same things in these big tech monopolies, and the solution is probably similar but the breakups would be a much thornier problem.

    • Thanks for the tip about “The Men Who Built America”. Being a foreigner I’ve never heard of it, but it sure sounds interesting. So I searched and downloaded the series. YT is yet another of these “oh so horrible” sites. To the ones who don’t know it. Music, art, technology, education, travel, etc., none of these I’d want to miss any more. Currently we watch the volcano on Iceland, a truly historic moment!

      Truly amazing video coming from Iceland! While the comments on YT are generally a vast wasteland, and many videos are lies or worse, I don’t consider it a “social media” site. -rc

    • I finally had a chance to look up “The Men Who Built America”. Those who have Amazon Prime can stream it for free, which I’ll be doing. Details on Amazon …you know, one of those big tech monopolies that have many bad things associated with them as well, but provide us with many good things, leading to the philosophical conundrum Andy mentions….

      • Hmm. I wonder if there is also a “The Women Who Built America”?

        There are many women (and Black men and women, and other nationalities) who greatly contributed. They don’t tend to be the subject of major documentaries, though, which is a shame, since that ignorance is to our detriment. -rc

    • A long time ago I read a sign that read “ignorance can be fixed, stupid is forever”. I add that if you are ignorant and refuse to fix it, you’re stupid.

      It makes me angry that people believe lies just because they have been repeated over and over. And they defend them fiercely.

  2. I haven’t read the essay yet but the responses are interesting reading in themselves. Sorry I chuckled a couple of times…oh and I only use Facebook, as well as email, texting and that really weird one talking over a phone or in person, just to keep up with a couple of good friends and my daughters.

    I do try to write in an entertaining way, so at least occasional chuckling is expected. -rc

  3. One disturbing trend occurring these days is: my opinion is truth, your opinion is a lie. I don’t need to agree with everything I read, but if I read from a variety of sources, i can better understand others, and not be offended from hearing their opinion.

    • Worse, with many it is also “your opinion differs from mine so you must be be racist/facial/trumpist/antifa”. And they have no problem slinging any associated slurs that go with such baseless claims. Which is why I pretty much left all forms of social media years ago.

  4. I said when social media first started being a thing that it was never going to end well. That it would just exacerbate all the negative traits of humanity. So far, I seem to be right. There are of course *some* benefits (few things in this universe are absolute, after all), but I don’t think they outweigh the negatives. I personally refuse to participate. I get enough eyestrain from rolling my eyes from sources I can’t entirely avoid without signing up for more.

  5. I often shake my head at people who only listen to or read things from their own echo chamber. I make it a point to seek out the podcasts, writings etc of those that hold different views. Sometimes I’m even convinced by their arguments. If nothing else it gives me a better understanding of their talking points so I am better prepared to rebut them.

    • Which is what intelligent discourse is supposed to be, not the exchange of propaganda that portrays itself as such that we have today.

  6. It’s not surprising to me that people took offense to something you didn’t say. Some people refuse to dialogue freely on any subject that is in any “possible” way contrary to what they think. I try not to judge people but one should try to look at things with an open mind first.

    I am a magician and I’ve heard said in a group of magicians, “Wouldn’t it be nice as a magician to really be able to read someone’s mind? Then I looked at Facebook and Instagram and I realized I didn’t really want to.” LOL

    Or, right on subject, this 2017 version on Randy’s Random. -rc

  7. I for one REALLY APPRECIATE the links you post in This is TRUE! I read as many as I can, and while I don’t always agree with them, I appreciate that my attention was drawn to them, whether I agree or not. One of the biggest concerns I have with social media is that the algorithms increasingly present you with more and more information that is similar to that which you’ve already shown interest. Almost the definition of an echo chamber, and it’s how too many people get news regardless of what side of the political spectrum they are on. I find it terrifying, and hope we can find a way back.

    That’s why I read so much: I’m looking for interesting “new” things that I hadn’t thought about before. The Google News “You read this article about the Florida apartment collapse, so SURELY you want to read 11 more!” stuff gets really old. -rc

    • I saw a TED talk about algorithms (sorry, the reference is buried deep in 10,000 bookmarks) in which the presentor (presentress?) described wondering what Trump rallies were all about in 2016. She found one on YouTube, and three “suggested” clicks later was deep in white supremacy propaganda. This isn’t necessarily a guide to Trump support — the rabid right tends to be super-spreaders, and so their preferences are disproportionately reflected by social media algorithms — but the effects are obvious. Perhaps we need an orthogonal google, which crawls the web just searching things and cataloguing the recommendations to map public perception as reflected by social media algorithms.

  8. I could give you many maxims along the lines of leading a horse to water and such, but that would be preaching to the choir. Fact is, people are afraid of what is different, unknown. Empathy allows us to see and hear another person’s point of view. But in today’s world, empathy is a liability and callousness is revered. It is a sad state of affairs, but it is a reality we must live with.

    Just one more truism: open-mindedness is not a skull fracture.

    I’m not sure many “revere” callousness — it’s just reinforced like everything else. My readers tend to be open to more than what algorithms press on them. The problem is, we all have to work harder and harder to get different points of view, and different ideas. -rc

  9. Social media is a tool that gets used for good or evil, but do remember that you don’t own this tool that you’re “using”. To mix metaphors with “if you are not paying for it, you are the product not the customer” -\ you’re effectively the nail being hit by the hammer wielded by Zucc.

  10. Holy crap!! Or I guess I can now say holy shit!! I don’t recall seeing Randy curse, ever! I guess he’s pretty pissed at this obliviot, lol!!

    I do sometimes use specific punctuation for effect. -rc

  11. Whether you have concerns about masks or vaccines or not there is no getting around the numbers showing the massive drop of infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the hundreds of millions who have had the vaccines. In the past you might have got info that worried you but eventually you couldn’t really avoid seeing actual results and having the opportunity to reconsider. Now its like I made a decision and i will block out any competing info.

    That isn’t entirely facebook doing that, its many individuals making that choice. Now i agree that the facebook design supports it due to the algorithms but this example is someone actively refusing to see anything outside her bubble. Its highly likely she would say that the US covid 600K+ death count despite how its collected and calculated is “fake news”!

    Not even personal relationships seem to get through this problem.The republican leader in Michigan who investigated the election and couldn’t find any fraud was complaining in the Atlantic article that people he and his wife personally know still wont believe him and wont read the 35 page document that he published!

    When people decide to trust people they have never met on facebook against someone they know well who has studied the issue these echo chambers create real problems for us all.

    • I have a friend in Miami who told me the 600k+ fatalities are just normal and have nothing to do with Covid. I threw a lot of science towards him but couldn’t change his mind. This was odd, as I have known him for >25 years and everything computer oriented he knows he has from me. So I thought he knows I’m not talking rubbish, but alas, I couldn’t change his believe system. Needless to say he’s not vaccinated and doesn’t believe in masks. And, most unfortunately, he had also voted for the orange guy. We’re still friends, but I chose my words very carefully now….

      Very sad to have to tiptoe around friends like that. -rc

      • Interestingly enough, several weeks (of sensitive nudging) later he told me that he and his partner finally had gotten the vaccination. I was full of praise for their decision of course and am glad I didn’t lose faith too early.

        Thanks for the update. I hope you’ll discover — and share! — what changed his mind. -rc

  12. The principle on which I built a successful career as a professional scientist is very simple — and apparently very hard for people to practice. “There is always something utterly vital that you don’t know.” This means you view your data (information) with a certain, sometimes small but always present, amount of skepticism. Thus, you remain at least slightly skeptical of your conclusions, and your theories. Anyone, especially a scientist, who does not do this is a fool. As for “belief,” that is more closely related to emotionalism than to reason. It is the province of religion and mysticism, which have nothing to do with reason.

  13. It used to be that communities had something of a standard and extremes were not encouraged. Facebook algorithms ensure no matter what your view, you will see posts of others sharing the same view reinforcing your view and obscuring other ideas. This leads to everyone agrees with me. So what is wrong with these few people who do not understand. Then dialog ends and we are right and they are good and they are bad thought strengthened on each side. The algorithms serve to divide people into camps on a multitude of subjects ending compromise or refinement of ones beliefs through new knowledge.

    • It can work both ways. I collect railroads and do rail-fanning, so I get lots of RR contacts. I collect insulators and telephones, so I got similar minded friends from all over the globe through FB. This is just a small part of what we use FB for. Politics is certainly not one of them.

  14. With apologies to Spinal Tap, the social media are amplifiers with the volume knob set to 11! And that is both the loudness and the sheer amount of stuff which daily bombards us. In the days before the internet, the wackos had only a few kindred folks parroting the story. Now there are literally millions who can see, react, maybe forward facts, alternative facts, conspiracies, and, occasionally actual truths. It must be easy for folks with limited synthesis skills to just assume that the loudest and most pervasive must be right. But ultimately you have to sort through to find the bits from trusted sources by which you can get through the fog.

    Back when I was young, there were three commercial channels and one public one. The evening news was conveyed to us by Chet and David and Walter. They had the gravitas, the stentorian voices, and spoke the truth. At least that is what we expected.

    Now there are literally millions of channels, voices and slants of opinion. It is difficult for me, even though over-educated in social sciences and journalism to feel that I have found the truth to many issues. Good luck to those less educated, more impressionable and isolated from human discourse in figuring out what is reasonable and what is not.

    It’s the wild, wild west all over again, and the charlatans have big big guns.

  15. Goodness gracious, I really appreciate getting links to articles that you think are noteworthy. Never have I assumed that you expect your readers to agree with everything you post or that you agree with everything that you post; rather, you post these articles to generate discussions.

    The idea of posting “thought provoking” articles is to get people to think about these issues, whether they agree with them or not, leading to interesting discussions that often bring up aspects that I hadn’t considered myself. It appears that the reader who cancelled her subscription in anger could really benefit from reading some of these discussions.

  16. I got rid of my Facebook and I am a much calmer person as a result. I realized that every time I scrolled my newsfeed I just ended up so angry at people’s stupidity and people’s stupid comments and opinions that I didn’t care about so I logged myself out for 3 months, logged in, was furious within 2 minutes, so I got rid of my account and haven’t missed it.

    I still have Instagram and I use it exclusively to follow meme pages and a few people I personally know and I get so much joy and no drama from it. The algorithm cracks me up, somewhere along the line I liked a meme from a popular movie trilogy and now Instagram assumes that I am obsessed with that movie trilogy and so shows me meme after meme about it. I’m not at all obsessed with the trilogy, but I enjoy it, and I do enjoy the memes as they are light hearted and a welcome thing in this world of drama and anger, so I keep liking them so that Instagram keeps showing me more. Fool the algorithms! Instagram has no idea what I *actually* like.

  17. I feel like you dodged what I believe is at the crux of the Facebook “issue”.

    Are they a platform or a publisher? (Same goes for YouTube and Twitter.)

    They came to the arena as a platform. This past year, they’ve clearly (to me and others) taken on the role as publisher. A publishers gets to chose what they publish.

    The closest analogy to Facebooks censorship (see: Biden laptop stories, former President Trump being banned for 2 years) is if Ma Bell listened in on your telephone conversations and decided what you could say.

    Several conservative-leaning posters have shared their stories of unwarranted YouTube and Twitter bans, warnings placed on their posts (that happened to me with a humorous meme).

    Snopes is “fact checking” the Babylon Bee.

    Sorry dude, these guys are way beyond being platforms.

    Oh, I almost forgot: put what you like in your newsletter.

    Not counting your last line (thanks), I’m not clear on your point. Are you supporting or debating the thesis here, which is that “Some Biologists and Ecologists Think Social Media Is a Risk to Humanity,” which supports my contention that Facebook, more generally, is “evil”? -rc

    • Your description is pretty close to what I imagine is happening.

      We subscribe, so it’s their fault of what they supply to us based on our likes?

      Why do we inflect upon FB and Google the role of police about what it is we should see? I’m strong enough to skip things I don’t like. If we want to police the social media, maybe there should be a government office in charge of that, adhering to law and prosecuting those in the wrong?

      We’re supposed to be in a free market economy: those using monopolistic tools should be taken to task, but those using market tools to provide us legally with what we want and allowing them to make a profit is the way of the economy. There have been scandalous newspapers and even TV news: this is nothing new, and in fact the newspapers to which I look for reputable information are a shell of their former selves. The newness is that the average person can participate in a very-fast, equitable manner, and maybe the average person has faults that can be amplified in this manner. The speed is the concept that we’re not used to dealing with, added to no responsibility for distributing fake info.

      I spend a fair amount of effort debunking misinformation in my news feed. I also subscribe to and otherwise listen to things outside my comfort zone just to insure I’m not pigeon-holed. Yet I still am.

      The People must be strong enough to reject misinformation. Yeah, wishful thinking.

    • Part of the problem here, is the definitions of platform and publisher some people seem to be using.

      Suppose you joined a book discussion group. Each week, the members read a specific book, then meet on Saturday to discuss it, at a different member’s house each time, rotating alphabetically. One week, they meet at your house, but instead of discussing the book of the week, they decide to hold an intervention for you, where they all criticize your politics and present misinformation and propaganda they expect you to adopt as your new beliefs, calling you unreasonable if you do not. As they do this, they act disrespectfully of your property — spilling drinks on your sofa and expecting you to clean up for them, eating food you didn’t put out for the discussion group, etc.

      When you try to steer the conversation back to the book, they all refuse. When you tell them to discuss the book or get out, they refuse to do either. When you finally kick them out, they start screaming about censorship.

      A book group is a platform. But by the definition of publisher being thrown around these days, YOU have become a publisher by throwing them out of your house for abusing you and your property — even though you haven’t actually published anything.

      The problem with that, aside from being labeled a publisher despite not publishing anything, is that you have first amendment freedom of association rights and the right to control access to your private property even if you open it to the public for discussion purposes. You don’t lose those rights just because you steer a discussion away from topics you dislike.

      This is also where certain groups’ intense dislike of CDA Section 230 enters into it — S230 is simply a reaffirmation of what other laws — including constitutional case law — already says: you have a right to enforce your own rules on your own property within certain broad limits, you are not responsible for what others say even if you delete their comments because they violate your rules, and you cannot be sued for exercising those rights or for what people other than you say on your property. All S230 has ever done is let people who are sued for those things anyway get the lawsuit dismissed before it becomes company-wrecking expensive. There’s an old saying that goes “the only thing more expensive than winning a lawsuit is losing one.” Even large corporations that are 100% in the right, whose eventual victory in a lawsuit is guaranteed, can be driven into bankruptcy by defending against a deluge of frivolous lawsuits — but with S230, they can get those frivolous lawsuits dismissed before they get expensive.

      I love great analogies! -rc

  18. Doesn’t matter if they are a publisher or a platform, really, it’s theirs, and they have a right to determine what goes on it. We have a right to use their platform so long as we don’t go against their rules. Or we can use Parler, or Mewe, or even set up our own.

    I’ve made the same argument in my previous Facebook post: “Your constitutional rights were not violated. I could also choose not to publish your comment here; I instead made the decision TO publish it. It’s my platform, and my right to decide what’s published here. I can even choose to be capricious (but don’t, and actually welcome dissenting opinion). Similarly, Facebook is Facebook’s platform, and they get to decide what the rules are, even if you and I both roll our eyes over the stupid and ‘wrong’ decisions they DO make.” -rc

  19. I appreciate your commentary and the comments with your responses. My problem is how do you decide whether what you see or hear is true or false. I’ve seen FoxNews show 20-30 liberal talking heads saying that something (take your pick) is an existential threat. I’ve also seen all of the talking heads on FoxNews (mis)using the word salacious to describe the dossier. It looks like the word comes down from on high to use the phrase/word to describe whatever is being talked about. I have seen flat-out lies an both CNN and FoxNews. Who do I believe?!?

    On contentious or important issues, a single source is never enough — so neither Fox nor CNN (though I think of MSNBC as more opposite of fox than CNN). “X said such-and-such” (even with a soundbite to prove it!) often isn’t enough: is it in context? Can you find the full quote, such as through C-SPAN? What does the foreign press say about it — which have less interest (not necessarily zero interest) in spinning to their own narrative? If that’s too much trouble, Occam’s Razor is a great tool: is it really likely that “Biden will take your guns”? Nope: it’s just a well-worn “stir up the masses” scare tactic (didn’t happen with Obama, did it?) What does all this come down to? Thinking and looking past the echo chamber to get at the root of what is really likely true. -rc

  20. I’m sorry, I need someone to explain to me why anyone would give time and attention to who is “worthy” of reading your material. If they want to read it, GREAT! If they don’t want to, that’s great too.

    Yes, I get that your publication, your rules. Beyond that, why would anyone really start labelling “Person X is not worthy of being MY client!”

    Had I a publication/blog/etc., I can’t bring myself to care a whole lot if someone doesn’t want to subscribe/listen/etc.

    It’s Tommy Lee Jones in the tunnel with Harrison Ford. Instead of, “I didn’t kill my wife!”, it’s “I don’t like your material!!” The reply is still the same. “I don’t care!”. If it’s something that gets yours, or other readers’ rocks off, that’s, of course, totally fine…I just lack the empathy and/or understanding to get why anyone would care who is not worthy of your material.

    I don’t see the word “worthy” in my comments. Nor did I imply she was — whatever “unworthy of reading my material” might mean. Rather, she made the choice to demand removal from distribution, and as a responsible publisher I of course removed her. So your point is …?

    I “care” a little in that it’s my mission to promote and provoke more thinking in the world, and I lost one to the mud-bog of ignorance. Other than that, my motto is “You can lead a reader to good content but you can’t make them think.” Sometimes I’ll use their words as another bit of content — thought-provocation and/or entertainment, and this one was both in my eyes.

    But I still don’t get your point. (FWIW this comment ended up in the spam folder, so approval was delayed until I found it about 58 hours after submission.) -rc

  21. A show called The Orville (a sort of parodic spinoff from Star Trek), had an episode about social media. The crew lands on a planet and one of them does something dumb that would — in our time — result in a fine or day or two in jail.

    Instead he is captured and sent to trial by Social Media! If they vote for it, he could be put to death! The other crewmembers have to manipulate Social Media to turn the tide to his favor.

    Could you imagine electing the next US President via Facebook poll? Or being allowed to “vote” on the sentencing of someone accused of a crime?

    Yes: supposedly that was what happened in ancient Rome. And the next comment was posted before I approved this one…. -rc

  22. When a future volume of books titled “The Decline and Fall of the USA” is written, social media will be one of the major topics addressed.

  23. I think that Randy’s concise, clear and unbiased writings give us one clear and undebatable conclusion: (Wide) open and loud mouths have a direct and reverse correlation with how open a mind is.

    I am heartily sick of the obliviots out there who decry and/or ignore real facts, as opposed to fake facts and refuse to consider any other opinion or possibility regardless of what is said and by whom.

    While the right has its share of these clowns it seems to me that the lefty, trendoid, protesting, sometimes criminal left side of politics has the majority of these obliviots and the loudest and most extreme of them.

    I pity the USA for what is in store for them over the next 4 years.

    By the way, I voted the Australian equivalent of the Demmys (the Labor Party) until I became so ashamed of our then prime minister that I was forced to vote elsewhere. And since then I haven’t been able to go back even though I want to.

    Cheers guys, and thanks Randy. I put the clarity of your writing up with that of Isaac Asimov, far and away my all time favourite author.

    I’m honored: I have read and enjoyed a lot of Asimov works, and only found one tedious: his two-volume autobiography (which simply needed a heavy edit to make it one volume). -rc

  24. For starters, I never used Facebook or other social media (a minor exception for Twitter to follow stocks, but the signal-to-noise ratio was too low, and I dropped it). I avoid Google services whenever possible, including Chrome. Granted that there can be benefits, but not at the cost of organizations tracking not only everything I do on the web, but what kind of car I drive, where I go, and what I buy — and constantly haranguing me about things they (incorrectly) think I might be, or ought to be, interested in.

    But the article you cited did crystallize one element of my thinking. Social media is *designed* to facilitate, and in the service of, *advertising*. Advertising is *designed* to influence behavior to achieve a desired end, and its methods have been continually refined for over a century. Truth is not just orthogonal* to its goals, it’s often antithetical (e.g. “new and improved” = “modified to be cheaper to make”). The same is true of social justice, democratic principles, an informed citizenry, et. al. — none have any relevance in the world of advertising, so why should we expect these huge advertising platforms (notably Facebook and Google) to have any positive effects in those areas? The platforms are constantly evolving to deliver as many ads as possible — and who out there in the political, business, and social universe has the most interest in influencing behavior to achieve selfish ends?

    So yes, I agree with the authors that it’s time for diverse disciplines to join forces to develop models of what’s happening, where it’s taking us, and what we might modify to direct it toward more socially desirable ends.

    *[When the authors used the term “orthogonal”, it resonated with me. Mathematically, orthogonal means “at right angles”. Its application here might be best illuminated by the observation that if you live in “Flatland”, a 2-dimensional space, elements of the third dimension are not only invisible to you (a line in that dimension is no more than a point in yours), but you have no language or conceptual framework to even recognize the concept of “height”. Using the metaphor of desirable social results being “orthogonal” to social media is, in this context, highly descriptive.]


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