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Beauty in Belmont by, Delleny Molisani

Words From Wiser on Wednesday-Facebook: Friend or Foe?


From Chuck Wiser, 10/27/21 “I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels”

One name, Frances Haugen and one term, Algorithm have been in the headlines and the “story of the hour” for quite a few days recently. If you switch channels or turn your device off when you hear those thinking there is no interest to you, you may want to rethink that.

Please bear with me and read through the back ground to see why I am interested in this topic right now. I, and likely you, are, or may be, losing friends, or getting upset with others because you just can’t seem to get in agreement anymore.

Now, we are all familiar with the term Alogorithm right? Probably not, unless you are a mathematician or computer code writer or programmer. Well, metaphorically speaking you might consider it the primary spice ingredient in Cookies, and you would be correct if you meant it in the same way that the ownership of Facebook does, according to Ms. Haugen and many other staff people at Facebook.

Cookies involve “Algorithms” which track your history and online actions. An Algorithm, applied in computer programming is a set of instructions written in computer code that scan millions of characters, words, phrases, activities etc. repeatedly looking for repeated information, comparing words, reading habits, sites visited, items purchased, read, or even looked at, and makes that information available to whomsoever owns or is in charge of that particular site that you are at or going through.

If you use any device, like phone or computer, to search for items, information, or to purchase online you may have responded to “allowing cookies”. Even if you decline, it is still possible that your requests, searches etc. are being tracked. How do I/we know? The next time you use that device it is very likely that it will show you advertisements or offers related to what you either were looking at, or ordered, in the case of online purchases.

I download Kindle Books (free with Prime, as I mentioned in a previous column) from Amazon. On a regular basis, even if on another “site” like Yahoo, I will get an ad, offer, or notification for a book from the same series I am reading. This also applies to items I have purchased.

Repeat. Even if you decline “Cookies” there are other mechanisms visible to these sites that are trackable.

All of that is an over simplification of what has been going on at Facebook, and other sites, to determine such things as what you buy and would be interested in buying again. Why? Because the people that advertise through Facebook (and elsewhere) want to sell you stuff. Facebook wants them happy so they will pay for their advertising.

It isn’t only the advertisers that have an interest in this stuff. The Stockholders and owners of these enterprises want their stock selling prices to go up. They want stock dividends. That’s why they buy and sell stock. So? They want you to see the things that they are selling. How do they know you will? By steering you, or attracting you to those places where they advertise.

Apparently, according to the Facebook “Whistle Blower” Ms. Haugen, formerly a Production Manager at Facebook, Facebook is targeting followers, like you, and directing, through these computer generated paths called algorithms, stories and posts and advertising, similar to your interests, based on your history.

We all (I think) tend to read, watch, or listen to the News stations that we tend to agree with. Some like Fox News. Some like CNN or MSNBC, Some, Yahoo. Like your preferences for a news outlet, you would likely tend to read and agree with people that you, well, you agree with. If someone doesn’t agree, or you don’t agree with someone else’s point of view a friction may develop between you. Personalities, emotions, civility, respect all get involved.

If the Whistle Blower and other analysts are correct, then we the masses (and I hope you separate those two words properly) are being divided into Friend or Foe, by this subtle and subliminal persuasion to pay attention to what others want us to focus on. I don’t think we get up in the morning thinking: “I’m going to make an enemy today”.

Anecdotally, people have intentionally set up dual accounts to track the reality of this theory. They, in fact, did find out that they, under two separate “personas,” were receiving different Social Media feeds and “links” based on what they had looked at, searched, or commented on.

One such trial that I read explained how a lady was “directed” toward feeds and comments similar to what her connection led them to, convincing her, or trying, to follow one of the “Conspiracy Theory” groups.

I personally have wondered why, in the past, so many people that typically show up in my feeds, comments, and “most significant” posts, were among those with similar interests or beliefs. We ended up in “confrontations,” with and from, the same people.

I love the collegiality and social sharing of friends on Facebook. Those that know me from Facebook, also know that I have backed away a few times because of the stress and drama that it presents. I have made a concentrated effort to try and be less confrontational but the draw of my relationships with those of a like mindset always draws me back.

I hope that by this writing I have given you something to think about, especially in your interaction with others in any social media arena. This whole enlightenment from the Whistle Blower and the coverage of it, has opened my eyes. Where I, or we, go from here depends on how the ownership and management of the Social Media outlets react, and/or respond, to this situation.

A mathematical algorithm decides the order of mathematical operations like add, subtract, multiply and divide in strings of formulas. We don’t need or want anything to put “Divide” at the forefront of our social formula.

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