I recently made a major discovery: my Facebook feed is complete garbage. Clickbait, spam, "fake news", and worst of all, political arguments between Aunt Sally and Joey from high school Biology. In Q3 of 2016, Facebook had reported over 1.79 billion monthly active users. At some point over the past 18 months, Facebook transformed from "happy birthdays" and cat pictures to the epicenter of political thought and debate.
Here's what people need to understand: as garbage as my newsfeed is, your's is too. In an attempt to better target users to find more relevant content, Facebook updated its algorithm. This formula leads Facebook to create your newsfeed, not just based on the most recent posts from your friends or from pages you've "liked," but based on the posts it predicts you'll find the most relevant.
What's been the result? A political echo chamber. Have mostly liberal friends? You'll see recommended and pushed posts from Mic, Vox and Occupy Democrats. Like the pages of conservative think tanks and Republican senators? Expect to see posts from Fox News, Breitbart and Conservative Review. From "trending news" to your friends' most popular shared posts, the more you like, comment and share, the smaller your chamber becomes.
It's no secret the more our ideas are reinforced, the more passionate about them we become. Why would dictators burn books and tyrannical governments block the internet if they didn't fear the influence of dissenting opinions?
So, here we are today.
Let's set the scene. You're browsing your newsfeed, and you see a friend has shared a partisan political piece criticizing or promoting the top story of today's news cycle. The post has a few likes, maybe even a share or two. A distance family member comments, "Love this! Good for you!" If you agree, you like it too. Maybe you don't, so you shrug your shoulders and move on.
Later in the day, you come across the post again. This time, though, there's a stream of 20 plus comments. Blocks of texts attacking the poster's point of view. Another friend jumps in to defend the original poster. A friend of a friend backs the critics. Those comments are racking up likes and comments on their own. The comments slowly twist from political to personal. Now it's awkward and everyone's angry.
Exhausting, isn't is?
This is the problem with Facebook politics. It's not designed to be a forum for debate. It doesn't matter what argument you make, what Pew Research you link to, or Bill Maher or Bill O'Reilly talking point you regurgitate, you're not going to change anyone's mind.
News flash: you're not doing it to change anyone's mind either. You're doing it for the likes, the reinforcement and the instant gratification. In the arena of Facebook debates, you're likely confident that you have friends or resources that back you up, that tell you you're right. In person, face to face, would you really make those same arguments? Would you do it knowing there was a chance people wouldn't immediately agree with you? In the real world, there's no way for people to quantify how much they "like" or agree with what you have to say.
In the real world, you can't take it back. You can't delete the post. It's a lot harder to admit your wrong.
I was raised in a political household. Check out my other content from Odyssey; I have a lot to say about politics, sports and culture. I've put my opinions out there; I've had to follow up with stories where I had to say I was wrong.
If you really have something to say, there are better platforms to share your opinions. Start a blog. Apply to write for a publisher like Odyssey. Even Tumblr or Reddit are more appropriate forums than Facebook.
If you were confident in your beliefs, you wouldn't be incensed by an opposing viewpoint in your Facebook feed. You wouldn't feel the need to take over someone's day to type responses on your iPhone just to prove to the world that you fit into one political mindset and not the other. So if you're not doing it to change their opinion, why are you doing it?
You're virtue signaling. We're almost all guilty of it. That doesn't make it right. If you want to change the world, get involved in a campaign. Donate your time to a cause that matters to you. Support a local candidate for town council. Write to your local representatives. To change the world, your time and money are worth a lot more than a Facebook rant and a couple of likes.
So, make your time worth something, and stop wasting everyone else's.