Did you know Facebook tries to get you riled up?
The top goals of every major social media platform include a measure of activity called “engagement”, that is, people interacting with content on the site. The trick is that not only do the adorable pictures of my son get lots of likes and comments, so do all those posts with disagreeable statements that you spend all day arguing about.
Facebook doesn’t care that one left you with a smile and the other left you with a racing heart and bad attitude, it just knows both posts got you to leave a few comments.
I posted a tear-jerker video of a couple celebrating their wedding in isolation that got no reaction. The post I made on election day got a lot of back and forth discussion. Which one do you think Facebook will determine people should see?
Here’s an example listing of the “Why Am I Seeing This Post” info box for a friend’s Facebook post that generated a lot of discussion. Some of the words exchanged were not so friendly but because lots of people engaged with it Facebook keeps putting it in front of me. I’ve been seeing the same old comments on the top of my feed all day long because Facebook knows it can get more engagement if it shows a forceful comment that people are responding to.
Strong opinions are important. The truth is important! Explaining to other people why they’re wrong is a favorite hobby of mine. Many of the things people are talking about today involve life and death and the ability to provide for loved ones. It’s important stuff to get right and we might see those decisions being made with bad information.
But make sure that when you’re exchanging words from your couch because something on Facebook caught your eye, you remember that Facebook wants the discussion to keep going. And going. And going.
And it doesn’t have a sensor to check on your feelings or relationships when the discussion finally flames out.