Ever since Facebook introduced the ability to make a short status update look more interesting by putting it in big text on a pretty colour background, I have noticed an increasing tendency for people to put up short provocative posts. And many of these posts provoke quite a lot of discussion – I suspect that’s the aim, to increase FB reach by tricking the algorithm into thinking the original poster has created something of value to the other platform users. After all, loads of them responded, didn’t they?
And, to a large extend, the algorithm is right. More responses does mean the audience think the post was worth commenting on. Even if, as is often the case, to say it’s utter bollocks.
I would love to be able to say that the problem is that both the algorithm and the people commenting are rewarding behaviour they don’t really value. Because no-one sees value in truncated click-bait provocation with no thinking behind it, do they?
Except that’s not the case. As far as Facebook is concerned, pretty much ANY interaction with the platform is good. Unless it’s a baby with a nipple in its mouth, but that’s a whole other issue. Because people doing stuff on FB are people it can show ads to. WE are the product folks, never forget that!
That the algorithm rewards crap posts is bad enough. But the worse thing is that the people who respond are ALSO rewarding crap posts BECAUSE THEY LIKE THEM. Posting sound-bite nonsense is serving a certain part of the FB community by giving them something to pontificate about.
Facebook is a great place to have a go at people, and to demonstrate our superior intellect/financial position/business acumen/spirituality/consciousness/general worthiness (select all that apply). So people posting poorly-thought-out click-bait are providing us with an opportunity to make ourselves look good. And the fact that we get to do it at the expense of someone a bit dim – well, that’s even better, isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a lot of very good conversations on Facebook (and other social media), where we‘ve been able to fully explore a controversial subject in quite some depth. Most of those discussions have led to me understanding more about the world, and the shallowness of my previous grasp of the topic. So I’m not saying there’s no value to arguing on Facebook (though it must be said that Mrs H disagrees – frequently).
But very few of those meaningful conversations have started from a brightly-coloured sound-bite click-bait post.
When the opening post has some depth (even if it’s deeply erroneous, in my world-view), those who bother to read it tend also to have sufficient depth of appreciation of the topic to bring cogent arguments to the discussion. There’s less ‘yah-boo’ and ad hominem, and more reasoned and courteous argument – which is, in the end, what changes minds and informs debate.
The danger is that we become so used to the click-bait stuff, and get so much fun out of scoring silly points in a shallow and divisive argument, that we leave ourselves insufficient time to think deeply about anything. And that harms the whole of society.
So please think before you respond to a click-bait provocation: would my time be better spent finding someone to engage with who can actually be bothered to develop a cogent thought?
I suggest that we all start right now to boycott all posts that seek to distract us with psychedelic backgrounds and pithy, but essentially empty, sound-bites.