Facebook, we have a problem

The world is slowly being split into two. Views are becoming polarized, grey areas are vanishing, and you’re either with ‘em, or against ‘em. This has been happening for a while and became crystallized here in the UK with the Brexit vote.

facebook
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I blame Facebook.

Although actually, if I remember rightly, all this began with Amazon.

They started to personalize your recommendations with their ‘if you liked this, you may also like…’ On the face of it that’s a good idea; if Amazon know that people who bought a particular book also tend to like a particular other book, then why not gently nudge you in that direction. They might sell another book, you might find a book that had otherwise passed you by.

Everyone’s happy.

Except that it polarizes. Same with Facebook.

You follow people/groups/brands/politicians/comedians/authors, which leads you to follow similar people/groups/brands/politicians/comedians/authors, and you end up in lively and passionate debate with a load of people who all feel largely the same about the world as you do. Meanwhile, over on the other side of the internet, a group of people are busy re-enforcing a different view of the same subject largely in isolation from you.

And there’s a chasm between the two.

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(Image via Pixabay.com)

My Facebook feed, you may not be surprised to hear, is packed full of cycling; admittedly a subject which is not quite as important as Brexit, political parties imploding, hate crime on the rise on the streets of Britain, and the dissemination of spurious nonsense about how leaving the EU will allow the UK to reclaim its independence*

The Facebook effect does apply to cycling too, though, and occasionally gives me the not entirely accurate feeling that everyone also loves my favourite sport. I met up with a couple of old friends recently for a beer and a catch-up, and when the conversation lulled slightly I reached for my go-to conversation generator of choice.

“So,” I said, “what about the Tour de France, eh?”

I have friends for whom this one generic question can lead, if unchecked, to a good hour of cycling debate. But I could tell immediately that I’d misjudged their level of interest in the world’s greatest bike race. Their joint facial expression was a combination of blank confusion and mild pity.

“Oh…er,” my friend replied, caught on the hop, “…yeah, so, is it in Yorkshire at the moment?”
“No, that was a couple of years ago,” I replied, already regretting the topic of conversation.
“Oh right. So, do they all still take drugs then?”
“No. I mean, it’s complicated,” I replied, “…anyway, I’ll go to the bar.”

And off I went.


It’s not the fault of Facebook that my friends have no interest whatsoever in cycling – that’s a perfectly reasonable position to take, apparently, so I’m told – but I do blame Facebook for the fact that I’d assumed they’d be excited about the spectacle of Bastille Day on Mont Ventoux, the resurgence of Mark Cavendish, Steve Cummings’ impressive role as a freelancing maverick Tour de France stage winner, and Peter Sagan being Peter Sagan.

I also blame Facebook for the fact that it never occurred to me that the UK would vote for Brexit.

After all, I was surrounded by people who felt the same as me.

The world is polarized. Reasoned debate has been replaced by entrenched arguments. You’re either a leaver or a remainer, a lover or a hater, a cycling fan or someone with a massive cycling shaped hole in their life.

Whatever happened to the grey areas, and how on earth does everyone manage to cultivate such certain opinions on such complicated topics?

Maybe it’s time to start mixing the Facebook gene pool?

*Seriously, we’re independent. Have been for ages.

 

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13 comments

  1. This is something that hadn’t occurred to me, but I believe you’re right. Social media can contribute to us getting so set in our viewpoint, we don’t even want to consider someone elses. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dude, I’m telling you right now, say the United Nations tried to impose their regulatory will on us, hell, say the UK did, just for giggles. Our entire country, except the Democrat Establishment (TM) would lose its collective $#!+. Immediately if not sooner. While I get that being a member of the EU had its benefits, they went too far with the regulatory arm. I don’t know how you put up with it.

    Like

    • Generally the regulatory arm of the EU is a good thing – the EU bureaucracy gets a bad press but the overall project is something positive and hopeful. I came to France 27 years ago a Eurosceptic and am now a convinced supporter of the EU. But I’ve got to do something really important now – go cycling!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll take your word for it. Try reading Alexis de Tocqueville on what will kill freedom. Here’s a good place to start: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/ch4_06.htm

        My favorite part:
        “A constitution republican in its head and ultra-monarchical in all its other parts has always appeared to me to be a short-lived monster. The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master.”

        There’s much, much more though.

        Like

  3. I have addressed this problem by not making any friends on Facebook, other social media or indeed in real life. This neatly sidesteps any getting into arguments or having any incredulity that anyone else thinks anything different than I do because I don’t know anybody. Also, I don’t need to wash or shave. Sorted.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I did wonder how you were going to turn it back to cycling! Well done for that – even if the moment itself must have been pungently awkward.

    It is a massive problem, though. When it comes to Brexit, it also polarises reactions to the thing being disputed: the EU became, on the one hand, the best thing ever and the very preserver of the lives we lead. This was the argument I was peddled. On the other the EU was considered to be the Empire of control and interference (I assume; none of my Facebook friends were suggesting this). Of course, neither is really true and the reality is – as always – more complicated. The EU has its problems, and Britain is now in a whole heap of manure after breaking away from it.
    There are many other examples of causes and issues debated in a pressure cooker of likemindedness which then spill out into the real world to clash with the opposing view. I think this has something to do with the violence which has erupted around a lot of Donald Trump’s rallies, for example.

    Like

  5. FB is as bad Google handing over data to the Gestapo-Stasi enterprises of the western world. Global elite shadow gov WANTS polarization of masses in order to keep their power. A united front would topple their dictatorships. Most people are ignorant ideologues and/or statists.

    This is what keeps the Global Elite in power…

    Cyclists are (nano-dosing) doping without question. of course in order to not believe this, one has to be living in a bubble… to put it nicely. Facts; fastest stage avg speed EVER in a TdF this year. Massive climbs, high speeds and 170+ finishers. Here is the Statist mentality: “But they have good nutrition and training…” LMFAO!

    Geo

    Like

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