Newspapers need balance to effectively attract advertisers, grow readership, and create successful marketing campaigns; Social Media Platforms — not so much. In early iterations of Facebook you actually saw all the posts of all the people you were following chronologically. It was annoying af if you had friends who chronically over shared, but the dope part was that you got snapshots of people who looked very different on the surface struggling, thriving, and moving through life just like you. When hashtags (#s) were invented by Chris Messina in the Twitterverse it allowed for example a person in Detroit to comment on events happening in Beijing in real time. When translate buttons were added it allowed a person who only reads Mandarin Chinese to communicate with someone who only reads English. Somehow all that progress got overshadowed when platforms moved to a “Tell’em what they wanna hear” approach, meaning the more you like something, the more you look at something, the more it’s fed to you. We love meat cooked on a charcoal grill but eating it everyday will lead to a cancer diagnosis.
How did we get here? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some will say many social media platforms have built in biases because of the lack of diversity in the people who establish and moderate content on the apps. Others will say everything changed when social giants placed more value on profits than people. Both theories are valid but in addition we believe algorithms that have the power to keep an individual transfixed on unhealthy materials for an extended period of time can be dangerous to the wellbeing of that person and to society as a whole.
We are living in the wild Wild West when it comes to the World Wide Web. New laws need to be drafted by folks like us who grew up with dialup, watched Napster be crushed by the very big businesses who would eventually steal their business model, and who figured out how to doctor photos and change Wikipedia Pages like folks change underwear. A widespread media source with no checks and balances is a weapon of mass destruction. There’s an old African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, but what happens when that child never goes outside?
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