The following is a reflection on the division occurring throughout the world. In this writing, I ponder whether the division is truly as extreme as the media has portrayed it by examining the external forces influencing the divide. While I mention current social issues, this writing is not meant to be a discussion of the ideas/beliefs/opinions of any group. For further information on the groups mentioned, I recommended visiting their websites, interacting with their content and forming your own opinions.
"Divided We Fall"
Do you feel alone? Isolated? Do you feel like you must pick a side but don’t know which side to pick? Does it feel like the majority of society has entered a state of extremism?
What if it isn’t as bad as you think? What if it is all an illusion? What if there was a way to stop it all?
Let’s start with the numbers. There are a lot of extreme opinions floating in the collective space, but is it the opinion of the majority? At what point does an opinion of one become the opinion of the majority? After hundreds believe? After thousands? Millions?
Here’s some perspective in regards to numbers. Think about this, if every single one of the 2.5 million humans living in Chicago believes something to be true, it means that .7% of the US Population believes that thing is true.
All of Chicago is .7% of the United States population. Yes, that is less than 1%. This country is HUGE.
Additionally, Fox News has 1.9 million viewers worldwide, MSNBC has 1.2 million and CNN even less. Every one of these News Networks has less viewers than Chicago has citizens, and Chicago makes up less than 1% of the country.
Minority opinion is being inflated and injected into our reality as truth.
Social Media And The Algorithmic Divide
Social Media uses personal data collection and something called an algorithm to determine what you are shown in your feed. They track things like political affiliations, career, brand preferences, spending habits etc as well as the habits and beliefs of the friends and companies you interact with. They then use this to determine what is shown to you. This is why you see an ad for a new car after searching car websites or an advertisement for used boats after your phone's GPS reports that you attended the local Boat Show.
This is great when it comes to finding a restaurant in your area. This is not so great when it comes to forming opinions and beliefs. Yes, much of this happens behind the scenes and a lot of it involves secret servers and encryption. Even given the secret (or “private” as it is more softly referred to) nature of these things, I will give you a glimpse into what I’m referring to.
Start by opening Facebook. Go to your settings. Go to the third tab down labeled “Your Facebook Information.” Take a look. Make sure to take a look at “Your Off Facebook Activity,” as well. If you’re confused as to why Facebook (or the internet in general) wants all of this information about you I will explain.
Social Media/Internet Sites use this information to gain a portrait of who you are. Once they understand this, they can target you for any purpose they or their paying advertisers choose. They know you love kittens and can show you kittens to make you smile. They know your fears, your religion and your affiliations. In a moment, they can launch a campaign to unify or divide. They have the ability to launch fundraisers that pull in millions, create frenzies of panic, tension or mourning to flood search engines with information that buries unwanted stories from resurfacing and unleash targeted campaigns disguised as “Harmless” and humorous memes that can single handedly alter the outcome of elections. In the same way they target you with information, they also censor or limit information as well.
I see two reasons for this. The first is to generate revenue. The revenue model of these sites is advertisement, which translates into attention. The longer you stay on these sites the more money they get.
What keeps you on Facebook longer, a post explaining how delightful life is, how we are all capable of creating the life we want and how we should get out in the world and start living OR a post that calls for you to stand up for some injustice in another part of the country that you are now just hearing about or tells you that, “The Other Side,” is coming to take away your most cherished freedoms.
Put simply, the other reason I see for this behavior is nothing more than to control the minds of the consumers. Control for the purpose of control.
Here are some quotes from an interview given by Sean Parker regarding the creation of Facebook. Sean Parker is Facebook’s first president.
“…literally changes your relationship with society,”
“…probably interferes with productivity in weird ways.”
“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
”The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'”
“…a little dopamine hit every once in a while,” (Referencing users receiving comments, likes, and shares)
“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
When asked if he, Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook engineers knew what they were creating he stated, that they “Understood consciously… [what we were doing] …And we did it anyway.”
This is not a secret opinion. You can google these comments. You can find videos on the internet where Sean goes deeper on these topics. They are very public. Facebook is designed to mimic the same chemical processes in the brain that cause addiction. Much like the warning labels on a carton of cigarettes, now that we are all addicted and dependent, there is no fear in revealing the risks.
Ultimately, the content has become so divisive that we can hear the same words and think something completely different.
Let’s look at how the algorithmic dividers have used the Black Lives Matter movement to bring us to the brink of Civil War. More importantly, the tactics used are so clever, that we have found ourselves unable to converse with one another about our current predicament.
Remember as you read the following, that this is the programming that each of the stereotyped friends I describe is receiving regarding the phrase “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” This is the imagery this phrase will conjure up when these varied groups of people come into contact with one another and attempt to have a conversation around what they believe to be a mutually understood phrase: “Black Lives Matter.”
Keep in mind, the following is not to discuss the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement or any of the movement’s principles. It is to highlight the division created by algorithmic based Social Network Newsfeeds.
My black friends see Black Lives Matter posts with photos of their ancestors and their achievements. It is a direct message: “Your people matter and you matter.”
My retired friends see Black Lives Matter posts that show looters, destruction, a volatile economy and a life long plan turned to complete uncertainty.
My law enforcement friends see Black Lives Matter posts advocating and glorifying violence against police.
My military friends see Black Lives Matter posts with defaced photos of the founding fathers, who’s words were delivered to them as a symbol of strength and unity during War times.
My friends struggling to stay afloat financially see Black Lives Matter posts with the promise of reparations in the form of cash payment.
My hard working friends see Black Live Matters posts discussing raising their taxes to pay for other's reparations.
My left leaning humanitarian friends see Black Lives Matter posts denouncing white privilege and demanding they speak up for injustices they may have created.
My right leaning humanitarian friends see videos of black citizens denouncing the movement claiming it to be false and anti-progressive.
My liberal friends see 5 seconds of a 2 hour Trump speech further edited down to a 10 word quote and an article explaining why it should be seen as, “Racist.”
My conservative friends see a 10 second clip of the same 2 hour speech with brackets around the video designating it as, “Patriotism.”
All of my friends also get a mix of Nazi symbols, pedophilia posts, scripted Hollywood opinion pieces and random videos of violent assaults with a racial spin.
As all this happens, we sit in our homes, alone. We are distanced from the friends and family that serve as a reminder that difference of opinion is ok. We are prohibited from attending concerts, playing sports, going to parks and worshipping.
The over worked‘s vacation is cancelled with days notice, while other’s sense of purpose is crushed as they are sent home and labeled “Non-Essential.”
The Country is divided in the reality they have created for us. But is it really...?
Why do I feel like I must pick a side in every aspect of life? Why has everything been simplified to “This or that?”
In the absence of the television and internet telephone, are we unable to coexist? Are you experiencing this division in your life outside of the theatre the media has created?
There will always be systems that favor one group over another. Even in the absence of race, some systems will favor early risers over night owls, some prefer extroverted behavior over introverted behavior, some will favor hard workers over profound thinkers, etc. To combat this, we must educate ourselves on this for the purpose of gaining awareness. We mustn’t destroy every imperfect creation, but we should be aware of the limitations and shortcomings.
In daily life, we must remember that our interaction with individuals is independent of the system. An individual can be a part of a system but can’t be the system. A system can be made up of groups of individuals but it can not be an individual. The system is the framework. We still have free will in our treatment of one another within.
As citizens of earth, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves. The systems are failing. The mainstream information sources are tainted. If there is a group that you believe is threatening our freedom or that you believe is advocating for our freedom, go to the source. Go to their website. Speak to their members. Speak to their leaders. Then form your own opinion. Knowledge is power.
If there is a topic that we feel passionate about, we should begin with sharing our own experiences and discoveries about the topic instead of the memes, videos and opinions of people we have never met in places we have never been. With this approach, we can begin to understand one another on a more intimate level. Deeper understanding of each other's experiences and the humanizing of difficult topics leads to the ability to have the difficult conversations that will heal and evolve our world.
We must begin to speak our truths and openly discuss issues. We must stand by our fellow humans with support as we all begin to navigate historically taboo topics. We should be intentional and accountable with our words while understanding the limitations of language and life experience that we all are bringing to the table. Actions speak volumes. I myself feel like I’m walking on very thin ice as I discuss these things, yet I feel in my heart that speaking on these topics now is the only hope in avoiding societal destruction. “Speak Truth, even when your voice trembles.”
Now that you know how the algorithms work, you probably understand the difficulty of disseminating this information on Social Media. Because of this, I need your help. If this article made you question something you hadn't before questioned or brought you some new insight, please share it with your friends. Post it on your Social Media sites, send it in a text, send it in an e-mail, OR better yet, make this information your own and speak to someone in person about the division we are experiencing.
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