In a recent TED talk techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci talked about a developing dystopian culture being fed to us by the advertising on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites. She described following a series of YouTube videos about Donald Trump, and how they quickly led to a series of white supremacist videos, which grew in radicalization as she followed the suggested videos. The Youtube algorithms led her into an increasing radicalized right wing agenda. This was not something Youtube (owned by Google) has established as a personal agenda; it is simply the way the machine has learned to feed you what it thinks you want.
This happens to the right and to the left. Thus, all the time you spend looking at YouTube videos and clicking Facebook information about the political, social, religious, and commercial things that interest you, the more you will be led down the “Rabbit Hole” as Zeynep described it in her reference to Alice in Wonderland.
The complexity of the algorithms in this social marketing is so great, and the number of hands that have helped develop it are so many, that Ms. Tufecki describes the situation as being one in which the developers don’t even really know how it works. This is not a conspiracy by the right or the left, though the right and left may be utilizing these factors to push their agenda – but that’s just it – both the left and right, moderates and radicals are using these tools. Consequently, we are being led down the political, social, and commercial rabbit hole no matter which way we turn.
The question we all must wrestle with is this: No matter what our persuasion, how do we avoid the rabbit hole? I am finding my friends are being radicalized to the right and radicalized to the left. The opinions and stances of their affiliations are all noble and good. The opinions of THE OTHER are always less than noble, destructive, and dumb. For me, this radicalization is not radical at all. It is the status quo. The real radicals are those who are not led down the rabbit hole in either direction. Of course, most of us think we are balanced in our thinking, but I have some tests that I use to see whether we really are balanced.
Applying my tests: I typically can tell to what degree a person is being radicalized by the today’s social media, and political landscape, and is being led down the rabbit hole, It takes only a short amount of time. Start talking politics and religion, and we’ll see how far down the hole you are. I dream of networking hundreds of thousands of people who have battled this radicalization of politics, social justice topics, religion, and commercialization. Actually, it’s the only hope I see for our world.
Wondering what tests I use? And how I know they work? That’s for another day, or you will find the principles laid out in a much longer post – Burning Religion lays it out in about 100,000 words. 🙂
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If you would really like to go deeper, check out my rather beefy tome on the topic of navigating the impossible spaces between disagreeing positions – Burning Religion – in Print and ebook