Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
Facebook has revolutionized the way we interact since 2004. Your platform has transformed the way we live our lives and consume information. It truly is something to behold. As a long time member and someone that has made a living with Facebook ads in my marketing business, I feel it’s only fair to give you some feedback.
I consider myself an open-minded individual. A variety of life experiences, I’ve gone from the depths of depression and addiction to leading teams of people in business. My experience has taught me the value of perspective. I’m at the very least humble enough to know that I can’t make an accurate or well-informed decision without seeing a problem from different angles. This is where the problem comes in with Facebook.
The Facebook Algorithm and it’s echo chambering effect on the human decision-making process is on a dangerous path. Hear me out. I think the algorithm is amazing for marketing products, music, and a host of other innocuous things. The last thing I need to see is someone marketing products for others. It has saved me countless marketing dollars as well.
The problem becomes dangerous when you apply the same principle to divisive and volatile news, particularly when there is no standard for accuracy in reporting. This is not a partisan issue, it’s a human issue. As I see it from afar, it’s becoming increasingly problematic.
Society has changed recently. Hyperbole among the press is the new normal. Headlines that can’t get clicks are useless creating a spiral downward of quality and accuracy. It’s now just about eyeballs, and remarketing to who clicks where; and, if they eat each other alive, well then so be it. I’m fairly certain people don’t know why they are becoming increasingly hostile towards each other.
When engagement leads to splintering a group, fear and anger will always win the day. People are much more likely to engage with something that angers or scares them than something positive.
In 2015, the average American spent 40 minutes on Facebook. I have little doubt that your metrics after this political news onslaught are well north of that. And, with that tremendous success comes tremendous responsibility.
I’m penning this letter from a small café in Sri Lanka, why? Well, I have been traveling for the last four months. My only connection to my home in America is often Facebook. I log on to connect with my family, post pictures and engage with the news of the day.
I’m witnessing an unfiltered powder keg of ever-narrowing viewpoints. Enemy lines are being drawn on this digital platform we all love, and it’s cascading. Polarizing characters only intensify the division and venom. As the headlines reach further, each side becomes more and more cemented in “their view.” Common ground is almost impossible to come by nowadays because of the echo chamber the “algo” creates.
I firmly believe a higher level of responsibility in social networking is in everyone’s best interests. We must work together to find a better way and bring our divided nation back together. That is how we will make American great, we are weak when divided. We can and should demand better. I am well aware that it would cost the share price a few handles to curtail the algorithm for the press, but all I can think of is the cost of doing nothing at all.
I tell my clients all the time if something on Facebook gives you a visceral response fight the urge to engage and unfollow that source. Conversely, when you see something that makes you happy, engage with that content and share it. When I do explain why people are often stunned at why they see so much negative, especially when the realization hits that they are bringing it on themselves.
We only had a few channels when I was a kid. Everyone got a good mix of information and we had many more deep and meaningful connections. People didn’t always agree, but they worked towards common solutions quite differently. We are in a unique time, I see so much positive potential for social media to bring people together. I know you see it too, I hope to hear from you soon as it’s a problem I’ve given a lot of thought.