Recently, there have been a lot of controversies regarding Facebook (now, Meta) on how manipulative it is and how it fuels misinformation and controversies. Time to get Meta.
Co-authored by Aryan
According to the documents themselves, researchers, people familiar with Facebook, former employees, and current employees, the social media platform is beset by a number of critical issues. These include hate speech, incitements to violence, and false news on its platform that is more widespread than the company acknowledges publicly. [Investopedia]
So, I was wondering why would Facebook (aka Meta) incite controversies and make people seek more attention towards it. Is it out of pure capital interests or is it something more deeper to think and unwrap about.
All publicly traded companies recently are expected to show double-digit growth quarters - if they don't want to be dunked. If you don't show record revenue growth, that means that company is failing; which shouldn't be the case - but Wall Street isn't here to listen. So, we can consider Facebook (cough Meta) to somehow increase their revenues, and what better place to do just that than making people more engaged to the platform.
And how can that be done? Ans: Controversies.
Humans have a tendency to interact more with content that they don't like. There are definitely genuine reasons, but people are not able to stand to listen on the other's opinion. And when you start talking about anything remotely controversial, say how to pronounce "GIF", there will definitely be people fighting over what's right and what's wrong. When there are more eyeballs - there are more ad-spots - hence more 💰
As we discussed earlier, the best way to show engagement is by boosting controversial posts in feeds. But this raises another question - Why do Controversial Posts get such high engagement? tl;dr: it's psychology.
The fact is that it's not just the case with Facebook; be it a subreddit, niche communities like Hacker News, some old forum or even YouTube - there are more comments and discussions especially when the content being discussed disagrees with a fanbase or bursts the bubble of others. A post about some step by Apple will incite lots of discussion on HN, or someone saying Ethereum is bad will incite huge discussions on r/CryptoCurrency.
I am not saying that we should not disagree. Disagreeing will definitely make people think more and probably bring something amazing to life. There could be some dangerous experiment being shown on YouTube and showing hesitation in comments is necessary for the creator as well as fellow audience to know about. Or you could have insights about a specific niches and would like to share it with curious like-minded people. There is nothing inherently wrong about it.
But if, even after knowing or being presented with facts, the community turns the discussion into arguments and becomes toxic chasing useless arguments, the cycle will go on without bringing any productive conclusion or ceasefire...
The thing is that most discussions on Meta or any platforms more often than not (unless it's a very well monitored platform....) will turn out to be baseless and worthless without contributing anything to the world. But still we as humans have managed to be able to accomplish something.
People just really like to disagree and protect what they have thought of and rigorously believed since eternity. Cause the fact that that "bubble" of hardened thoughts, memories and emotions will burst; is too overwhelming for them deal with.
The gods on whose mercy we all spend our time everyday. These algorithms can cause havoc in human society if it thinks that people like controversial and unethical stuff. If what all teens and society consume is garbage or some propaganda that will become the truth for them. The problem is most of these algorithms are made in a way to keep users on their platform. They need not be some fancy Machine Learning jargon, but simple down-votes by people using it also work to destroy whole societies.
Let's say I am an alien who is invited to keep humans happy and engaged and prevent them from thinking a lot. I will study all these social network and interactions, and it is pretty clear that the way to keep people satisfied is make them furiously type and press dislike and reward them with an opinion they agree with. In essence, create a reward-adrenaline loop. And I, as an alien, will really like that - as people seem to be happy on the outside and engaged mindlessly swiping a piece of glass.
Here's the thing: Not all content ever made is incorrect or controversial. There are neutral and amazing works that do not bring or need any criticism. But overall, the majority likes to engage infuriatingly with things that they disagree with or criticize someone who is probably just sharing their view point.
Why cannot we just disagree with few opinions, but agree with other thoughts of an individual. Why does everything need to be black and white? Why can't we humans, collectively decide to live with people's differences of thoughts peacefully?
Therefore, I believe that it is us, the people; not Meta; who like to bring up some controversial topics — sometimes they are needed for clarity, or change — but they should not go out of hand to such an extent that Aliens and Capitalist behemoths think that those are the things we like to be fed with.