This line from a recent New York Timers article, “About 30 percent of adults in the United States get their news on Facebook” is sobering.
Algorithms. Mathematical equations. Crunching numbers determine now “news.” Not “all the news that is fit to print” but “all the news that will bring a click.” More clicks equates more newsworthy. Simple equation. And not far from equating clicks as reality. If it wasn’t clicked, it wasn’t real.
How do those equations work?
The code is based on “thousands and thousands” of metrics, Mr. Marra said, including what device a user is on, how many comments or likes a story has received and how long readers spend on an article.
As one Facebook employee noted, “you’re the best decider for the things that you care about.” That drives the above. That is what the authors of the algorithms want to refine… how to get in front of me exactly what I want to get in front of me. Got it. But what if we are not the best deciders? What if a part of us finds articles with headlines of “breast” far more scintillating than “refugee crisis.” Which then becomes “news”?
I purposefully read a newspaper every day. Why? Because I don’t trust myself. Because I know I need to read things I don’t want to read. Because I know crises in the world abound, many that receive scant attention. It sounds old fashioned, outdated … I read to be a better citizen.
We live embedded in a culture where individual choice/ preference lies deeply embedded and unquestioned. Not always a good thing. If we desire to live an enriched spiritual life, we must live beyond holding ourselves and our small opinions and likes as sacrosanct. Spirituality pulls us to a bigger world, not Facebook.