By: Nick Gambino
There are two things wrong with Facebook leaving what appears on your newsfeed up to inhuman algorithms. One, you can’t customize it to fit your unique sensibilities that only you fully understand. Two, the algorithm is geared toward eliciting an emotional response that results in you taking action. That’s what they mean by “engagement.”
Sure that emotional response might be one filled with nostalgia or some form of joy. But these last five years have made it abundantly clear that there’s a seedier side to the proposition, a side that fuels hate, anger, and a plethora of negative emotions that serve only to divide and mask that bond we all share—humanity.
Facebook is introducing a new feature that seeks to return some of the control you have over what you see in your feed. Users will be able to more easily switch their feed to reveal the most recent posts or those from their top friends.
This new feature is not so much new as it is easier to find. We’ve had the ability to switch over from algorithmic feeds to more personalized ones, but the setting was buried and not easily accessible to the average user (over 2.7 billion and counting by the way).
The “new” feature was announced in a blog post by Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs at Facebook. It’s not being released as an admission of any guilt in the stoking of the raging fires sweeping not only through the U.S. but through the globe, yet the whole blog post is an interesting read as Clegg attempts to bridge the divide between social media advocates and detractors.
“Technology must serve society not the other way around,” Clegg says. “In the long run, people are only going to feel comfortable with these algorithmic systems if they have visibility into how they work and then have the ability to exercise more informed control over them.”
He goes onto speak on how the Facebook algorithm gives you what you want. There is no editor, it’s “curated” according to your tastes. The point he misses is that what we want is not always healthy for us. Facebook and other large social media platforms are enablers on a base level.
While it may take some getting used to, if there were a chronological feed that updated in real-time with content from friends and those you follow with less attention on creating knee-jerk reactions, we might finally escape from social media’s icy grip.