I’ve been a member of Facebook for some time now, so I’ve watched it change. In the beginning it was a great way for me to keep up with friends and even to find people that I had lost along the way. Over time I accumulated a rather large following and I suppose that it was the same for most of the people who had signed up for the service. I understand that it would be rather chaotic if the posts from my hundreds of friends were to show up on my wall each day. It somewhat made sense that the folks at Facebook had to find a way to tame the beast so to speak. The result was the creation of various algorithms designed to ferret out the main people whose posts they thought I would most like to see. Unfortunately the rendering of a mathematical analysis resulted in my losing touch with a number of individuals with whom I had happily reunited. Facebook appears to think that I mostly want to hear from relatives and people who are my own age. While I have definitely enjoyed hearing from those individuals I have to admit that I am angry that I no longer see the posts from so many of my younger friends. The Facebook methodology is a rather presumptuous way of determining whose photos and comments I will see from day to day and who will see mine.
Since I write a blog each weekday I eventually created a special page on which to share the information. The idea was to find a larger audience for my stories. Admittedly it has been a bit of a bust in the last year or so, and I suspect that it is because Facebook is doing the same kind of things with that account that it does with my main one. In other words over half of the people who I number as my friends never see the post. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Facebook is perfectly willing to boost my reach if I pay them a certain amount each month. Since I am unwilling to give them any money we appear to be at an impasse.
I suppose that I should be happy enough that Facebook provides me with an advertising platform, albeit quite small, but a few years ago I was managing to inform around four to five hundred people a day in the same venue. Now I am lucky to gain the notice of a hundred. Perhaps it is the result of my writing having grown dull, or maybe it is because of another one of those strange Facebook algorithms, which leads me to another bone that I wish to pick.
Since setting up a page for my blog I have written over four hundred fifty entries, each with a special image attached. I tend to believe that a photo has a certain ability to entice people to read my thoughts, so I never simply use words. Awhile back I composed a piece about Heinrich Himmler. I had seen a documentary about him that prompted me to consider how often we have monsters in our midst whose physical appearance and background seems so harmless. The theme of my essay revolved around the horrors that this seemingly innocuous individual managed to perpetrate. My composition was in reality a verbal takedown of Himmler and his henchmen, and as usual I included a picture to illustrate my points.
For some reason out of the four hundred fifty odd other images that I had posted Facebook chose to single out the Himmler photo and display it prominently on my page as an example of what I have to offer. Seeing that horrible face again and again quickly began to irritate me, but I hoped that it would eventually be replaced by a newer offering. Day after day after day I had to look at that mugshot and wonder what someone who did not know me might think about that image being so prominently displayed on my wall. I began to worry that Facebook had some kind of algorithm designed to find right wing extremists and that perhaps they had pegged me as someone to watch because I had used that picture.
I’m a bit hard headed so I decided just to wait and see what might eventually happen, but the image never went away. They did not replace it with the lovely photos of my students or Mother Theresa or the heavens. Somehow the people who decide such things thought that it should stay. Finally in sheer desperation, and my own aversion to constantly viewing that mug, I simply deleted the entire post. He is gone forever from my wall but I truly wonder what kind of indelible and erroneous impression I may have made on someone who has never met me or read my ideas.
The world of social media can be a very scary place in which we take risks each time that we reveal a bit of ourselves. We never really know who is seeing our posts nor how they are interpreting them. I suspect that from time to time we all draw hasty conclusions about things that we see without ever bothering to read more about them or even to ask questions about why they are there. We fall for stories that are dubious without following up to determine their veracity or lack of it. We make instantaneous judgements and read between the lines overlaying our own thoughts on others. We question the intelligence of someone because of grammatically confusing posts and poor word choices when sometimes those errors are the result of autocorrect. What we think we see can be a real slippery slope of incorrect judgement, and in today’s world lots of people are being tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion without virtue of valid evidence.
I have so few visitors to my blog Facebook page that I’m probably okay, especially now that Himmler”s ugly mug is gone, but my own story made me think about how we all too often indict people without ever seeking explanations for the things that we think we see them doing. Mine is a good lesson in both being circumspect in how we present things and taking care not to draw swift conclusions. I have long held that our first recourse should be to give people the benefit of doubt. In most cases they are innocent of bad intentions. Only after we have assembled facts and evidence should we make judgements that might prove them guilty.
We are all too often manipulated by a steady barrage of opinions and innuendo from questionable sources. A good way to combat the propaganda is to always start by assuming the best and then put in the time and work to uncover the truth.