Tag Archives: media

Eli Pariser: How Internet Personalization Feeds Us Junk

7 May

One of the occupational hazards of life as a hermit is spending an absurd amount of time considering the intricacy of mundane scenarios.

For example, yesterday I blogged about how no one should trust salad.

And lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time considering only marginally more merit-worthy: something on I dub “Mini-feed Missing Persons”.

For quite some time, I have been wondering how it’s possible that I have about a thousand Facebook friends and yet see only a fraction of them in my mini-feed.  I could blame the privacy settings folks might have, but I’d venture to say I have well over 100 friends who are okay with me knowing every single aspect of their Facebook lives.    I don’t say this because I’m full of myself.  I say this because the majority of my friends are involved in theater, and theater people are open to a low, dirty fault.   You know, for the most part.

Besides, Facebook changes its privacy settings so often that even if you started out incredibly diligent about following up with your Account Settings every time an update was made, by now you’ve probably loosened up.  So what’s going on? Why am I only able to easily stalk a fraction of the friends I actually seem to have a connection with in my virtual society?

I started listening to TED lectures because they’re incredibly addictive and mind-blowing in new, brain-stretchy ways.   If we could replace some of the absolute filth on television with a TED talk or few, I’m quite certain that the average IQ and general decency of society would gain 10 quality points (which, on the imaginary quality scale I just made up right now, is a whole lot).  And in my recent run-in, I found Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

In my not-so-witty-and-straightforward summary, the idea behind Eli Pariser’s discussion is that user-generated content and targeted advertising are based on a junk food mentality.   The algorithm that determines what we click on most often is actually targeting what we click on first.   And that what we click on first tends to be junk food for the mind – which are the ideas we already know and like, or sometimes even trash and guilty indulgences.  Eventually, we plan to get to higher-thinking activities and pages but over time it will be determined for us that we will click on the junk food most happily and most readily – and so all  that’s given to us is junk food.   Pariser relates the concept to our Netflix queue and how typical queues will show guilty pleasure movies being moved to the front and intellectual better-yourself movies and documentaries to the back.  He says, “We all want to be someone who has watched Rashomon but right now we want to watch Ace Ventura for the fourth time.” 

And wouldn’t ya know- after all this time I’ve been thinking of this Facebook friend void seemingly in my own little hermit mind, Eli Pariser comes along and talks about it as well:

“Take his Facebook page, for example. Pariser used to receive comments and links from readers on both sides of the political spectrum. Then one day he noticed his conservative friends had disappeared; only links from his liberal friends remained. Facebook, without asking him, had seen that he clicked more often on links from left-leaning friends and simply edited out the rest. The site used an algorithm that hides from view the kinds of content it has determined, from your past activity, that you are less likely to interact with.”  – Excerpt from an article by Kim Zetter for Wired.com Ted 2011:Junk Food Algorithms and the World They Feed Us.

And so that’s what’s happening to all my Facebook friends.  This new age of personalization on the Internet means that if I never wander over to that old high school friend I’ve been meaning to get in touch with and instead check up on my promiscuous neighbor, I will find my mini-feed devoid of said friend and chock-full of half-clothed, drunken neighbor.

What’s my point?  Twofold.  First, TED lectures are awesome and you should look into them.  You could start with the one I’m referencing.  It’s ten minutes: try it. 

Second, my Facebook friends are not more visible because apparently at some point, I stopped checking up on them.  As a result, they’ve been systematically weeded out.  I actually have to search through my friends list for a name instead of just reading the mini-feed? Preposterous!  But hey – mystery solved.

And listen – I know that I’m a millennial and all, but this affect everyone, not just mini-feed-crazy Generation Y.   You’re reading this blog, you use the Internet, and you probably use Google.  And it might be interesting for you to know that if you’re a conservative from Idaho and your buddy is a Liberal from Alaska, you can type the same search term into Google and be fed completely different search results.

I don’t know whether to be in awe or fear of the potential consequences.  What do you think? 



Please Stop Talking With Your Mouth Open

18 Feb

I yelled at my car radio today.  I yelled right in its face.  I even went to honk my horn until logic kicked in and I realized that doing so was even less effective than screaming at it.

Nothing in this world makes me want to tear off my skin, pick up a shovel, and beat the tar out of someone quite like blatant displays of ignorance.   Far worse is the crime when it’s done in mass media.

Local radio  is the worst.

If someone wants to post some undeveloped, overly confident thought through a media outlet online, that post is subject to a great deal of public criticism.  I have the ability to repost it with mockery attached, comment on it, or to even contact the writer and give them a piece of my mind.

If someone wants to state something similarly moronic on television, it’s heard around the world and not only will it damage the network’s ratings and credibility (Fox News, anyone?), but it will also be fodder for late night television hosts for weeks to come.

However.  If a local radio show gets some hot shot in the seat who thinks they understand the way the world and people work and wants to use the microphone as a soapbox for his personal (and might I say infantile) opinion, it is just not as easy as I would prefer to hold that moron accountable for the uneducated poo he spews all over society.

My peeve of the moment is with a local radio station, which featured a talk show host who was discussing the concept of the right to life.  His argument was essentially that those who dwell in the world solely with the purpose of extinguishing others should not be awarded the right to life.  And though I think there are a few misguided principles imbedded within that perspective, I respect where he was coming from.

Until he kept talking and I realized the context in which he was speaking: The Christian / Muslim debate.

Ugh I hate the Christian / Muslim debate.  I shouldn’t say hate.  Hate is a strong word.  I strongly dislike the Christian / Muslim debate because it’s usually being had by some extremist Christian who doesn’t actually have any concept of Islam.

This was the case inside the intangible world of my car radio.

Unfortunately, this gentleman was questioning the basic right of life in the case of Muslims based on the fact that all Muslims want to kill us.  They want to kill us all until we’re dead and eat our babies and bomb our playgrounds and things.

And try as I might, all the screaming I could do was not enough to make him stop spewing his uneducated poo all over the radio.  People could actually hear what he was saying. People heard him!  Heaven forbid he actually might have swayed someone to his perspective.  The idea of that really keeps me up at night.   Somewhere out there is someone who isn’t very bright and is very easily swayed by entities that are seemingly well-informed and reputable.  And somewhere out there, that person might have just turned his ignorant little heart against any practicing Muslim he meets in the future.

Muslims who set out in their lives solely to kill Christians are a lot like, I don’t know – “Christians” who try to sell magical vials of holy water in infomercials.   Just because a portion of a population with a labeled identity do a certain thing does not mean it informs the identity of the group as a whole.   To make a sweeping statement as violent as the concept of not having a right to life and apply it to the entire population within that belief system is a sort of ignorance that really just gets up my butt, makes nest, and keeps me in a downright foul mood.

So I screamed at my car radio.  Because there was no dislike button, no comment section, no reposting, and no ability to publicly mock  him.    And since I was unable to call in and give him a piece of my mind (because after all, I’m driving), I felt helpless to save easily-swayed minds from his moronic grasp.

So here’s to you, idiotic radio shot host: may you be blessed to have an experience with a peaceful, practicing Muslim (shouldn’t be hard since they make up 1/5 of the world population) who makes you feel like a complete imbecile for your poo spewing.

And when you do, please air a narrative of your enlightenment.

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