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Curating your social media



As some of you know, I left Facebook last year. I recently reactivated my account as per a friend's request, but I rarely read my feed and only log in maybe twice a week to check notifications/messages. The main reason I left is that Facebook is essentially a confirmation bias machine. In order to keep you coming back, the algorithms are specifically designed to show you things you will like, based on data collected on you from Facebook itself along with partner sites. One can reduce a user's presence on their feed or unfollow them altogether, blocking out what may or may not be a quality, valid viewpoint in its own right. The breaking point for me was when I realized I was getting my news from Facebook and starting to get unconsciously lazy about seeking out proper journalism. There's some personal responsibility involved here, but Facebook, by design, makes it that much harder to get outside of your comfort zone.

To be properly informed, one must view differing perspectives on the world to see what is actually going on. That means reading things that can make you uncomfortable from time to time, but if you're reading quality sources, it's difficult to dismiss an opposing viewpoint as simple propaganda or without basis in logic and/or science. Here's an example. My political views are socially liberal (in case you couldn't tell!), but most of my family is very conservative. We will differ greatly on topics such as abortion, immigration, and police reform. On abortion discussion, there's been some positives--I can understand their viewpoint that abortion is murder, no matter what, and should be illegal. On the other hand, calls to completely shut down Planned Parenthood, clinics that are frequently prominent in such debate, are not reasonable, as they do provide access to contraceptives and pre- and post-natal care. On police reform, I think it's important to have the discussion that police work is a dangerous job and, in many cases, individuals in law enforcement are held accountable for overstepping their bounds. It is not helpful to call Black Lives Matter a "terrorist organization" and outright dismiss the problems with police in this country.

This is where confirmation bias comes into play--with the way we are consuming media now, it is too damned easy to get stuck in an echo chamber of like-minded individuals and end up in a tribe representing a section of political thought. Authority bias comes in when we see things in print, ranging in quality from the random blog to opinion pieces in the Washington Post. If one aligns their thinking with a political tribe, it becomes more difficult to view such writings as merely opinion and not gospel. This is not a new phenomenon, either, at least in the US--the rise of the 24-hour news cycle on cable television years ago resulted in (and propagated) breakouts to ideological corners, resulting in networks of media with political lean. It has grown worse with social media, however.

So, what I've done is branched out. Twitter has been my primary resource in this time, with reddit filling in the gaps here and there. The partisans are there, in droves, but one can find proper debate that does not necessarily descend into name calling. One can find quality individuals with opposing viewpoints and follow their feeds, yielding cogent comment and links to professional articles. There's also entertainment, of course, and the nature of twitter is that professionals do not seem to be afraid to express individual viewpoints, so overlap happens. (Also, twitter does have a "things you may like" algorithm that I always dismiss.) On reddit, it's a bit more difficult. Content is generally properly categorized, but sometimes you have to dig for the quality pieces and not be tempted to reach for the low-hanging fruit that's been upvoted to the top by groupthink.

As stated above, I think curating a good social media feed requires a dose of personal responsibility and also enough legwork to make it happen. I'm constantly tinkering with my feeds, adding new people on twitter, removing others, adding subreddits, blocking others. Just remember that sometimes the news and political discussion is supposed to make you uncomfortable. If you're going to reach out to the world, there are tools to make your viewpoint accurate and push you towards critical thought.



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I tried the other method - stayed on FB but started following some people espousing the opposite viewpoint to me, like Paul Joseph Watson, Steven Crowder and Milo Yiannopoulos (to name but 3).  I noticed a few things.  

1) They are intelligent charismatic guys and do a good job of presenting their bullshit opinions.

2) Watch / read them enough and their shit starts to sound more reasonable.

3) Moving from shit sounding reasonable to actually changing your whole perspective is possible - and not as much of a leap as you think.

4) Once you understand this you realise your opinion is meaningless and founded on whoever you allow to influence you.

5) There is no truth.

6) The people who follow them are all stupid though, just read those comments FFS.

7) As these guys are intelligent they probably know this and don't believe their own bullshit.  They are just doing a job. Entertaining the bottom feeders, for money.

8)  Engaging with this is therefore worse than meaningless.

9) Watching / reading nothing is better, none of it means anything, nihilism is real.

10) Much more free time and complete pass to not give a fuck about politics. At all. Ever again.



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Both @Phoenix and @hirondelle bring up good points. I personally tend to read an article, then research the information presented in the article from other than named sources, even if it’s something I believe in or somebody I like. For example, I love the band KISS (my #2 all time favorite bands), and my favorite members of the band are Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley (2 polar opposite people in almost every way except they played in the same band together... twice). I hear and read a lot of things that Gene Simmons says and think “Phuk dude, just shut the hell up before you kill everything you ever worked for”. Then I read some of the things he says and I’m like “Hell phuk yeah!”  Then I read/hear things Ace Frehley says, and I think “Awesomeness dude!”  Then I read some of the other things and think, “what a phuking idiot!”  I do my best to keep things in perspective and look at more than one side to an argument, even if it pisses me off. Lol. 

One thing I learned from on3 of my favorite YouTubers, Phillip Defranco, always leave room for the discussion (my words, not his)

keep up the great writing @Phoenix.  I enjoy your writing. 

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Thanks, @Timberwolf.

@hirondelle, on a couple of my podcasts there's been a lot of discussion recently on the move away from reporting into opinion in popular media. I do tend to avoid those persons that are simply contrarians-for-hire or otherwise out there for shock value (Rush Limbaugh, Louise Mensch come to mind). I try to focus on those who do the actual reporting. I'm still bummed because Chris Arnade left twitter, and I don't blame him--when you don't fit neatly into partisan politics, you get it from both sides. I'm not familiar with the other two names, but I've seen some of Milo, and while I do think he has some fair criticisms about social activism on the left, I have little patience for someone with hate speech towards any group.

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