I recently read Roger McNamee’s Zucked. Interesting book, from one of Silicon Valley’s top investors (and an early investor of Facebook). Learned a few things about Facebook, especially about its scope and tactics. Here are five of them.
- Facebook knows a LOT about us – it holds up to 29,000 data points for each and every Facebook user. It probably knows more about us than we do!
- It uses various tactics to keep its users on there (and hooked) for as long as possible, including the automated playing of videos, and their bottomless news feed. The more you scroll down, the more information you get, and the more you scroll down… bottomless. Hooked.
- It tends to nudge users towards information that will get them agitated or angry. This is because emotions like fear and anger get people more engaged. When people come across information that makes them fearful and/or angry, they engage with it and ultimately spend more time on the site. This is great for Facebook because more engagement translates to showing more ads to its users, and thus more profit. You can almost say that Facebook has a vested interest in getting people riled up.
- It is the last place to go to if you are looking for balanced world views. Facebook filters what is shown to you based on your past preferences. So if you tend to like liberal content more than conservative content, ultimately you will only be shown liberal content. And vice versa. That’s why, for instance, supporters of Trump will generally only see content that supports him, while the non-supporters will not see what Trump supporters see. Intelligent discussions can only happen by knowing about both sides of a story – something Facebook’s filtering does not encourage.
- Facebook groups are ripe for manipulation. According to Data for Democracy, it only takes one to two percent of a group’s members to define the group’s agenda, and what is being talked about.
Facebook has transformed how we communicate and connect. It can be a very useful tool and a great facilitator. But the problems start when it is overused (as most people do). Use it responsibly, rather than becoming a Facebook zombie.