Facebook doesn’t really do its job when you ask of it to follow a website for you. Before getting into the reasons and details, here are two images that explain how you can properly follow a page on Facebook. Unless you change your notification settings as shown in the images, the default behavior is that whatever you see in your news feed is at the whim of algorithms designed to extract money out of everybody using the website – users on the one side and advertisers on the other. Sadly Facebook treats as advertisers even non-profit content creators such as myself, but more on that below. However, at least for now, there are still ways to circumvent the algorithms. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Fueling the division
It’s a pity that I even have to type this but alas, due to the rather unfair algorithms employed by Facebook (and many other social networks), I realize it’s necessary to explain the current situation. Before I start, I’d like to emphasize that I have no problem with Facebook making a profit. As a living commercial entity, it needs to survive in order to evolve. But what will it evolve into? We as users of Facebook need to voice our concerns if we wish to have a say in its evolution. A social network should be the best place to make oneself heard but unfortunately, in the case of Facebook this is increasingly false.
For example even if you follow Mentatul on Facebook, you will still not see all the new posts in your feed because the social network uses a ruthless filtering system that actually separates people into comfort bubbles^. This algorithm has its upsides because it can show users more of the stuff they are actually interested in, but it comes at a great cost.
First of all, it deepens the chasms between social groups, reducing one’s opportunity to discuss with people outside one’s comfort zone. Like any company, Facebook wants its users happy. Happy users spend more time on the website and make the company more money. I’m not saying that the Facebook experience should become a carousel of discomfort, being bombarded with things you don’t care about or even disturb you. But instead of allowing users to become isolated tribes there should be certain topics that can cross all boundaries, especially topics that are important for social development (equal rights, education, ecosystem, anti-corruption, critical thinking).
Perhaps one day AI algorithms will be smart enough to discern between constructive writing (ideas, criticism, analysis) and intellectual poison (false news, hate speech). The question is if the humans sitting at the control panel will allow these algorithms to contribute to educating people. Certain elite groups prefer to dumb down the masses so that they are easily controllable. But there are also those that have realized that an educated population can be much more profitable for the entire species in the long run.
Making life difficult for non-profits
Another way Facebook algorithms are hurting is treating non-profits as if they were advertisers. The website is built quite “intelligently” so that it coerces the owners of pages into paying for getting exposure. It’s understandable when we’re talking about commercial, for-profit entities. But sadly, for all its “well meaning”^ attitude, Facebook doesn’t help non-profits much. Most of my posts there hardly reach a third of my followers, with the website constantly nagging me to pay in order to reach more people.
There is zero advertisement on Mentatul and the website doesn’t bring me any money yet, quite the contrary, it consumes time and bandwidth. I will never charge for my work, everything is provided for free, with a possible future option for donations. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t care that my page is a non-profit. Even though I’m an independent writer, it still treats me as an advertiser. What a non-profit cares about is for people who are interested in what the non-profit has to say to receive all updates.
When I post something on Mentatul’s Facebook page, it gets shown to a (sometimes very) limited amount of people “following” the page. To make matters worse, I’ve noticed that the most important articles, such as the ones about social issues (consumerism, intellectual diet, cultural and environmental decay) are shared even less. It’s not surprising, because such articles seem to go against Facebook’s profit-driving forces: advertisement.
This is not a revolution. It’s evolution
What makes me even sadder about this situation is that I’m not even against any company making money! I’m not against advertisement at all. Treating our consumerism problem for example doesn’t mean there won’t be advertisement or profits anymore.
It simply means that companies should be encouraged to produce higher quality products with replaceable parts at increased cost. The increased cost is a profit driver that will allow companies to cover for the R&D investment required for providing better quality and the infrastructure required for maintaining products for a longer time.
Competition means that there will always be winners and losers. Curing consumerism will still be done by companies, but it has to be us, the buyers of products, who make sure that non-consumerist companies succeed. Facebook still has a place in that world, so does advertisement and corporations. But it can all be done in a much better fashion in order to safeguard our ecosystem and continued quality of life on this planet.
And this is how I turned a post about how to follow a website into a philosophical discussion about economy, advertisement and the artificial intelligence used by social networks. Seriously though, if you like what I write here, please go through the trouble of following my Facebook page properly :D.