Social Media and the Concentration of Opinion

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Social Media and the Concentration of Opinion

Social Media Love or Like

How did we get here ?

In the beginning there was technology. Technology to use for good, to strengthen the ties between friends and families separated by distance, separated by borders. To connect with people who you may not have seen for some time, and to understand what was happening in their lives.

Then came the cost, the infrastructure, research, and development, all needing time, human time, costly time, offices and infrastructure. The public, in general wanted it for free, pay a fee to see photos of relatives, to message a mate but at a cost, was not desired. Many new to the internet were struggling with the cost of connecting to the internet alone, generally there was a free email box, and this could be used for free to communicate.

Then came the businesses that wanted to advertise, they would pay for some text, an image next to a photo of granny blowing out the candles. With business they wanted more for their money, they needed people to want to put photos up, to drive interaction, to create virtual footfall on to the doorstep of their online shop. All hail the psychologists, what was it that people could get from posting, suddenly it wasn’t enough for people to share happy snaps. The need to let people hear what you have to say, the need for people to see you in a selfie. Suddenly business was recruiting from the other side of the social sphere, the more sinister desires of humans. The desire to be seen and heard. Speak no ill, see no ill, hear no ill. You could say what you wanted from the apparent safe place of your home, people that didn’t agree can block and unfollow. Everyone’s feed becomes unique, tailored, algorithms watching what you liked, primed to show you more of the same and keep you coming back. More time, more profit for businesses as you were sidelined through their adverts.

And then this year Facebook announced that they would be changing the algorithm to take you back to show you more friends and family postings. However, has the damage already been done, how many in the UK have unfollowed their family that didn’t agree with their views on the EU, how many in the USA unfollowed their loved ones over the voting of Trump. Will facebook be able to undo the damage of allowing concentration of views on your feed, should they undo, should they force views of friends that aren’t to your taste back on to your feed.

Why is it that something that was so driven by the desire to bring people together and create a equal unified platform, something that had wondrous and appealing philosophy has now driven wedges between differing slices of society. What made debating opposing views in the past was something with rules and understanding, now appears to be who can shout the loudest insult. Is it time for social platforms to introduce a way to train people in ways they can debate more effectively. Imagine a platform where people could express their view but only if that view was backed up with a fact. Kialo ( https://www.kialo.com/ ) has started a version of a debating platform, although it lacks visual appeal could it be a start of the turning of the tide.

In five years time will everyone be fact led, or feeling influenced, will the introduction of more AI into social platforms and advertising areas increase or decrease the interactions of humans, will functions such as auto-like, for Aunt Mavis's photos become commonplace, will we be able to teach our online AI bot to respond appropriately when a friend challenges our view on a political subject. The options are endless, but the need for supervision and monitoring is great.

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