The influence of our information sources on our worldview
Nov 01, 2016
2. Changes in where we spend money on ads is changing where newspapers get money from, and how much money. More wretched change for newspapers as advertising woes drive anxiety
Social media is rising as a source of information, and several (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) are trying to capitalize on this by using algorithms or human editors to curate the news that is happening at the moment. But this is challenging. Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News Facebook fires trending team, and algorithm without human editors goes crazy A glimpse into Facebook’s notoriously opaque–and potentially vulnerable–trending algorithm
Algorithms that poll the whole of one social media channel are as useful as nightly news aimed at the whole nation. They will tell you what is happening broadly, but likely won’t be very unique to your interests. And in the age of niches on social media–your interests, your friends–you will likely find more to dislike than to like.
Algorithms that poll the people you follow are only as broad as the people you follow. If you follow many people, they can be helpful at surfacing things you are interested in. If you follow only a few people, you don’t need an algorithm to tell you what’s trending among them.
The alternative is a human-edited, or curated, feed. As pointed out in #3 above, human curators are challenging. But they can be more useful than an algorithm if you are the one picking the curators.
The 2 extremes of trouble with both approaches is: if the group of information sources is too broad, it won’t feed you anything that’s useful to you–it will be aimed more at the ‘average’ person in your country. But if the group is too small, or too much like you, it won’t feed you anything new or challenging to your thinking.
The latter problem is the so-called “filter bubble” or “echo chamber” challenge. For a definition, see Wikipedia. For discussion, see this excellent TED Talk and his book as well as Nicholas Carr’s book. To boil it down: when you follow people who believe everything you believe, they echo back to you what you think, reinforcing your worldview. You never get any new input or any challenges to your thinking. You never see someone else’s point of view.
For me, the solution is to carefully curate thoughtful people who post around specific subjects into a Twitter or Facebook list–and make sure that there are some on that list who (1) think rationally, (2) post objectively, (3) and differ from my point of view. Sometimes I add them to my main feed. Sometimes I just have them on a sub list. So I have sublists, for example, for WEST ASIA, EAST ASIA, SOUTH ASIA, NORTH AFRICA, WEST AFRICA, EAST AFRICA as well as topics like Startups, Missions, and so on.
For my main feed, I add people who either (1) I regularly interact with or (2) are objective and rational thinkers that don’t post every little thing, and that typically have at least 5,000 followers. I figure if you’ve got at least 5,000 (and preferably over 10,000) followers, you’ve probably passed a litmus test of having something useful to say. I am pretty quick on the unfollow button, though. Some people use the “as a man thinks” verse as an excuse to get rid of all the people they disagree with. I don’t think that’s a wise idea. This is what I do. Think about your strategy and see if this helps. See also: Editors vs. Algorithms: who do you want choosing your news?