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News Flash: Facebook Ain’t News

by | Aug 5, 2016 | Daily Life

Facebook’s continuing desire to be a leading source for “news” is a sad indictment on the state of credibility and critical thinking in the world.
Here’s something you already know…Facebook makes the vast majority of it’s money on advertising and promotion. You also know that people spend a huge amount of their Internet time on Facebook, staying in touch with what friends are doing, keeping up on social trends, and getting their news about what is going in the world.

Now it’s that last one that troubles myself and many others. You see when Facebook was merely a place for keeping up with friends and sharing things that friends are prone to share, the platform was a truly valuable tool. But as time went on, people weren’t just sharing stories about what their kids did that day or the cool restaurant they checked out. No they began to post things they saw from other places on the Internet about serious issues…politics, science, medicine, terrorism, etc.

Publishers of that news and information took note that they were losing tons of visitors to their own websites and instead their stories were being shared and read on Facebook exclusively. Realizing that their own advertising models of existence were in jeopardy, publishers began paying to have their content show up in Facebook’s news feeds and get more prominence on the social platform, with hopes of getting people to click their way back to the publishers’ sites where they made their money with advertising.

So at this point we have institutions of credible news fighting for eyeballs along with thousands of less credible sources of information..all in the hopes of getting those eyeballs to land back on the advertising they need to survive.

This does not sound like a very positive situation if you are one who believes an informed population, curious and willing to be exposed to new ideas is good for society, does it?

No, here’s why.

Facebook, like the Internet in general, allows for silos and echo chambers. People can go all day surrounded only by people that think like them, agree with them, and will not expose them to anything that may differ from the view of the world they already have.

The ability to discern real, unbiased information from opinion is greatly reduced in the Facebook “news” world. Stories and posts are often shared and read at such speed that no attempt to determine who is really serving up that information can be done. Not to mention that people are just not interested in the source since it came from their network, which as we just said, is made up of like-mined individuals.

The squeeze being put on those truly reputable and conscientious news outlets (of which sadly there are becoming fewer) to make their content more “shareable” in a Facebook world, can cause serious harm to the integrity of their work. Feeling pressure to produce stories with more of an opinion slant, choosing to avoid digging deep into issues because the Facebook world likes short and sweet, making editorial decisions based on traffic potential over social need…all are things that a society cannot afford to have happen.

Usually I try and put a little positive spin at the end of one of these articles in an attempt to leave you feeling like we can make the situation better, but this time I’m really not sure where or how to begin.

I suppose I could ask you to share this story with others you know in hopes of ideas being generated and solutions coming about…of course that would be a case of irony right?

Maybe so…but sometimes change has to come from the inside out.

 

Robert Westfall

Robert is a writer, behavorial researcher and decision-making consultant. He is the founder of Instinct, a firm specializing in helping organizations be more human focused and planet conscious.  You can learn more about his work at www.TheHumanInstinct.com and follow him at twitter.com/WeAreInstinct

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