Advocacy And Social Networks.

social media remote via animated heaven flickr user public domain 1 aug 2022
Via Animated Heaven on Flickr, public domain.

Having now seen the troubles with Facebook (and by extension all companies under Meta), and getting involved in Twitter, I’ve seen a few things that disturb me. While my political views would hardly be called popular, I have taken pretty strong stances in support of Ukraine and women’s rights, as examples. This, of course, means you end up dealing with people of like minds because that’s how the social networks work.

However, we humans tend to confuse people going in the same direction as those who are going to the same destination, and in that regard, there is trouble. I’ll deal with the issue of social media interactions and Ukraine here because after the horrid video of the torture and castration of a Ukrainian Defender made the rounds, followed by an execution – I saw the video, it was absolutely horrible – things are even more tense.

The blowing up of a Ukrainian PoW camp even as Russia tries to say it was Ukrainians who did it… well, the Geneva Convention has rules about how far from the front PoW camps are supposed to be, and Russia of course ignored that, and evidence is that Russia did it. The United Nations and International Red Cross were useless. Broken. It’s hard for anyone observing to not be upset at some level, but apologists remain.

Now, these social networks have their own little echo chambers, and there’s plenty of disinformation to go round.

Given the failures of the United Nations and International Red Cross, and given that Ukraine likely doesn’t have the time or resources to create a registry of NGOs that are actually helping, it’s a matter of finding out from the ground in very quiet ways. I have done so, and I’m very select in what I share in that regard.

While all of that is happening, we of course have the Russian propaganda and misinformation happening, and people are calling that out. Some of it is patently obvious, like the same serial number on a missile used twice in Russian propaganda. There are plentiful examples of that sort of thing, even using pictures of the United States in Russian propaganda. Meanwhile, a genocide is happening in Ukraine, and the world is worried about inflation.

The price of living up to ideals is discomfort. And if our ideals are not worth the discomfort, there’s not much space for ideals in the future. During World War II, my fathers’ side of the family was getting rations in Trinidad, while my mother’s side was busy in the military or Merchant Marines. We call it sacrifice, whose root is, ‘to make holy’, but it is the cost of our ideals and how we wish the world to be.

In all of this, the social media interactions I’ve observed have had me thinking I should write this.

Becoming What We Hate.

There’s some things I see that I generally stay away from. I’ve seen people who support Ukraine go through multiple accounts on Twitter, referring to ‘Russian cum guzzlers’ and other creative profanity, to just this morning watching a group call out someone on something they didn’t agree with, calling in their group, and bringing up the fact that this person had been accused of causing a suicide through orchestration of social media posts… not unlike what that group was doing to the person themselves.

Wait, what? Yes. Don’t become what you hate.


Then there’s the falsehood of whataboutism. Some trolls will bring up something like what has happened in Iraq, or Syria, trying to create a parallel and at the same time reinforcing a division. Rather than engage it and say, “Yeah, that is/was wrong too”, which would allow the casual observer who might think that there really is a bias rethink their perspective. Instead, dismissing it reinforces to the readers that that particular issue is not considered real, when it very well may be, reinforcing their beliefs which works against the actual advocacy someone is trying to do.

I’ve done this quite a bit, saying, “Yes, that is bad too.” It generally is, and when someone reads that, it at best doesn’t reinforce a bias that the reader may feel when they started reading. At worst, there’s no comeback to it. All it takes is considering beyond the current person and to the greater audience who may not be interacting but is reading.

Whataboutisms are landmines of unintended consequences that, handled improperly, can cause people you don’t even know about to harden their resolve against your cause. What’s worse is when there is even a small amount of legitimacy in them, because unanswered, they fester. You might enjoy that smug feeling, but if your intent was to change minds, you likely failed.

And if you are advocating, for whatever reason, and you don’t want to change minds, you’re not advocating.

The Pile On For Mistakes.

People pile on to others during disagreements at times when they’re assuming intentionality, or not even worried about the intentionality and only the impact. Someone said it well enough to quote, so here it is:
Terrence Jermain Starr Intention Impact
People make mistakes. I made a mistake early on in writing, “The Ukraine” rather than Ukraine, and someone understood my intentions were good and corrected me. I thanked them for the correction and never made the mistake again. I was fortunate in that regard, because there are people out there being pretty groupthinkish about what people should say at this point. However, we have to understand on a social network that people aren’t fed the same news we are, their lives are different, their world, as they see it, is different. This doesn’t mean that given facts they won’t change their minds, which is sometimes the case. But it gets nasty, and it can border on bullying.

We get to decide who we are on social media. We get to decide what we participate in or not. If it’s a Russian embassy putting out crap, I’m all for letting the pile ons happen – after all, someone is getting paid to post things that need to be called out. But if it’s someone who made a mistake, and we assume intentionality, we can actually ruin someone’s life.

This happened recently to someone I had interacted with in more than one Twitter space. I don’t know what happened, no one talked about it, but suddenly they just deleted their account after saying goodbye because they – who had supported Ukraine without question – was accused of spreading Russian propaganda. Another person I know who is well read on Russia and it’s history and who has helped me map out commonalities with European colonialism got accused of spreading Russian propaganda because they omitted something in something they wrote by someone in one of the popular groups on Twitter supporting Ukraine. I did something I don’t do often. I stepped in and was surprised I didn’t get a pile on out of it.

Today, something similar happened to myself, but it was sidestepped by a neutral party that I respect and it came to a halt. This group think policy is something that people should be considering when they become members of a group: What’s the destination? It’s not just about direction.

It’s not just about impact. Intentionality plays a part.

Groups Get People Looking for Fights.

As groups get larger, people join who just want to fight. The goal of advocacy is to win, not to fight. Fighting is necessary sometimes. Worse, you sometimes get people these days who pretend to be advocating for one thing when they’re really advocating for another, and without structure, these groups have no mechanism to deal with it.

Wrapping This Up

I could wax poetic about how to handle situations on social media and social networks because I have been involved in moderation since the 1990s in various ways, and I have been wrong, and I have been right. Being wrong and correcting my mistakes has allowed me to be right more and wrong less.

I’m imperfect. I get things wrong. I correct them when I find them.

The more technical side of this, which is imperative, can be found here: Why Social Media Moderation Fails. It deals with the black boxes of how social media platforms respond to things differently, and can appear to have biases that we ourselves can create. These social media platforms were hardly designed for the sorts of things that they do. They’ve been reactionary, imperfect, and sometimes they seem outright biased – but there’s no real evidence showing it. It’s our own bias, until we get evidence, and social media networks are hardly known for transparency. Oddly enough, it’s an iron curtain.

If you’re going to play these games on social networks and you don’t know the rules the social network uses (which is really most social networks), you could be shooting yourself in the foot and not even know it.

The trick to all of this, in any form of advocacy, is not that people are traveling in the same or even different directions. It’s about the destination, and the destination a person has is what they are advocating for. It’s also about not destroying one’s own advocacy.

Speaking for myself in the context of Ukraine, I would like to see Ukraine’s sovereignty honored by it’s inhumane neighbor. I’d love to see the International Criminal Court do it’s job. I’d like all the children forcibly moved by Russia to Russia returned to Ukraine. That is my destination.

And to be frank, that doesn’t seem like enough, but that’s more than enough right now.

Facebook Algorithms Run Amok.

TheTruthHasNoConscienceI’ve used Facebook since I worked with a fashionable DC Drupal shop whose CEO at the time thought it was the best thing since… well, in his mind, Drupal. He had all of us join even though we were way too busy to be goofing off on social media.

Later on, I began using Facebook to connect with people I had not been in contact with for a while. Later, I would try to use it to share stuff I was writing, though I had friends who were very good at liking things I wrote but were not quite compelled to use the share button. Maybe my writing sucked. Maybe my friends didn’t understand social media. I’m leaning toward the latter given I did get good conversations, but people didn’t understand sharing.

Time progressed, and people stopped seeing less of each other on timelines. Algorithms, “we think you want to see”, etc – which all but took what I thought was interesting away from Facebook. It got worse, so I tried that ‘paid advertising’, and for the most part, it doesn’t make sense spending money on Facebook either unless you’re willing to really go big. In essence, you’re paying them to undo the stuff that shares what you post on your timeline. Quite a racket, really, but that’s Facebook.

Lately, since I’ve been supporting Ukraine on social media, Facebook has taken a new twist – restricting my account over what were clear parodies. I tweeted about it a few times, the account restrictions went away a few times, and then I tried uploading the Hitler movie excerpt with subtitles that made fun of Putin. You know. That one video that was quite popular for a while.

This got my account restricted again, for something that was clear parody. Facebook lacks a sense of parody. In chatting with a few other people, the problem is pretty consistent. Facebook is not for humor. I’m not even sure humans work there. You can’t speak with a human on a network of humans about issues you have. It’s insane.

birdshit_fb_webSo Facebook, which was once interesting, is just a place where I glance in now and again as I use other social media. Sure, there’s a RealityFragments page on Facebook, but I think that’s a matter of time as well since I’m being punished for having a sense of humor.

I mean, we all can’t be Mark Zuckerberg.

Incidentally, always hold on to picture of animals taking a poo. They come in handy.

Nothing Of Consequence

©#74Originally started writing this on April 28th, 2019, but I’m clearing drafts, so this is one.

A friend who writes asked me yesterday, breaking a silence of some time, what I had been up to.

Without thinking too hard, I wrote back something along the lines of doing nothing of consequence.

I thought nothing of it, really. It was largely true, I have accomplished little worth reporting to him. I have written some, read some, thought a lot more, but all of these things have had no consequence on the world or myself worth noting to someone who would find them mundane.

This morning, in the quiet pre-dawn, I sipped some coffee and thought about this. How many times in our lifetime are we asked what we have been doing, what we have accomplished? And how much have we reported that was truly of consequence?

I thought back to the first times I had been asked such questions, and my parents immediately came to mind – back when they were much taller, and much less deceased. I would proudly roll out my accomplishments, whatever they may have been, omitting the things that they need not know about.

This becomes the boilerplate for all responses in the future, I think.

A child will happily report things that will get favorable responses from their parents, so if managing to use the toilet was the big thing at the time, all the successful hits on the target would be reported. The misses would be… missed. And in doing all of that, maybe we talk a bit about what interested us – maybe petting a dog, feeding the raccoon with the foaming mouth, or playing with some toys. At some point, parents don’t give the favorable responses to those things.

So you stop talking about them when asked, “what have you been up to?”

And as we grow older, time becomes more precious and our novelty to our parents becomes less. We’re no longer cute, they’ve found out about the misses and the things that you didn’t report… the reality of what you really have been up to.

Brevity becomes more important.

Looking back, I imagine I could have reported that I had done nothing of consequence when I was a child frequently, since it begins to sound silly when you give the report. So then you get to, “Nothing”, because that response should be safe, but a child who reports that they have been doing nothing is one step closer to being water-boarded by parents.

In primary school, we were required to keep diaries, writing what we had done the previous day. Mine were boring – woke up in the morning, brushed teeth, ate breakfast…. a litany of the mundane life of a schoolchild, with self-censorship being reinforced. I imagine how frustrating those must have been to read for a teacher.

Meanwhile, where we were likely to be judged by our peers, we were more open about what we did. Classmates got the full run down. The teachers, the censored version. We learned not to incriminate those and those we cared about, and we also learned to villify others in our own petty ways.

Now we have social media, with most of it being… nothing of consequence. And heaven forbid it have consequence to ourselves and not some majority.

Then you get the outsiders. And the outsiders, are we are finding, are largely problematic.

Writing The Balance

15125228371_8d48671870_wWhen writing for the public eye, I have this odd need to mention both sides and even advocate both sides. Thus, when I wrote “The beauty of a cell tower“, even though with my background I do not personally believe there are issues with cell tower radiation, and I heard people who were voicing opinions and sharing information that were plausible and coherent. Realistically, no one has come out and said there are no issues because they can’t. We don’t know. At least some of us believe not, and at least some of us believe so. Who is right? I do not know. I acknowledge I can be wrong with my personal opinion; it is an opinion after all, and so I explored what could be researched.

As I told a friend recently over a drink, “I don’t think that there is a danger, but I imagine if I had a pacemaker in my chest I might view things differently.” That I do not have the fear does not make someone else’s fear less real. And as I sat with my morning coffee this morning and considered perspectives around me, people reaching for solid answers on a topic, it seems to me that this is a lot of what is missing in social media, and even between peoples sitting across from us. 

What was most amusing to me was that someone said the article was misinformation, when in fact there is no misinformation in there – sources are linked, and a topic explored that probably could afford to be explored more. If there is no risk with cell towers, why then doesn’t the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Health say something on the topic?

It’s an inconvenient topic. As I mentioned in the article, there is a balance between progress and concerns that must be addressed and while I have an opinion, and while everyone else has an opinion, what we lack are facts. So do we become paralyzed about it? No. We should not be.

But that’s the trick with trying to present something that is balanced. People with strong opinions that cannot acknowledge that they might be wrong will accuse writing of misinformation, even gaslighting (such a popular term these days though few seem to understand it when they do it). To dismiss the fears of others without addressing them also fits ‘gaslighting’.

Vaccines are another example. I believe in general that vaccinations have value. Others are worried about what’s in vaccinations – some out of profound ignorance, some out of informed opinion, but it’s inconvenient to address both for some so they… gaslight. Rather than address the concern through knowledge and rationality, it’s easy to simply gaslight and make someone question their reality. 

Balance has value. There is room for more than one perspective on anything that we think we know or that we believe.

Wondering About Blogging

One of the things that I consider just about every time I log in to write something here is how much the world suffers from incessant social media posts about the same things. See, I’ve been blogging since 1999 – and I’ve seen it all start, seen it all go crazy, and seen what it is today which, in my mind, is a hangover of that crazy.

I recall a period when I was a Communications Manager for a Drupal shop for a brief period, and the constant barrage of “we need to write stuff on the blog” from the CEO. Certainly, I found the CEO a jerk and even told him so in person in NYC, but all of that notwithstanding there is a constant pressure to produce when blogging because of the way it all got monetized. Being first became more important than being right – and I do believe that this has leaked across the media, where journalism itself is constantly on trial with a readership that is baited by headlines into things that can, and sometimes do, misrepresent the story completely.

I used to blog incessantly. At least one story a day. And where I ‘failed’ and continue to ‘fail’ as a ‘successful blogger’ is not writing about the same topic because I like exploring different topics, mixing them, and making sense of them in a broader way. Where ‘blogging’ wants me to be frenetically writing about the same thing ad nauseam, I want to fly and explore and take anyone interested with me.

Some people, I suppose, thrive on specialization, but some of us don’t.

The other side of it is the pace at which we publish: Search algorithms are tailored for more frequently updated websites to show up higher in search results. Everything is moving faster, but really, maybe it’s not a bad idea to slow down and think things through before communicating in any manner.

Maybe people need to think a bit more.

I don’t know, I’m just putting it out there with my own biases on open display. I write when I want to, when I feel that there is something to say, because to do so when you don’t have anything meaningful to say is of lesser value to me than a well thought out bit of writing. One that takes the reader on a journey. One that points at things and asks, “What if?”

Are we with blogs simply adding cacophony to this ubiquitous human nervous system on the planet, looking for reflex actions of likes and shares instead of conscious and coherent thought?


The Unremarked Lives.

Misty OutlineA day or so ago, someone commented on my post about my first surgery on this slab of meat that I inhabit. And they said, “One might call you generally unremarkable.” Taken out of context, that’s a bit of a slap. Taken in context, as it was done, was also a bit of a slap filled with assumption, but I gauged the intent otherwise and decided to interpret it as, “One might call your health generally unremarkable.”

But take a moment. Why would one have to dig into that? Because we all want to feel that we are remarkable in our own way. That somehow, we’re special.

I’m certain of who I am, and I’m certain that my life so far has not been like others, and I can say that with a grim authority that only I may have because I am special in my own right and, gentle reader, no matter how unremarked your life is, there is something remarkable about you – if even it is that, should you somehow be unremarkable, that you are remarkable.

To be unremarkable is certainly worthy of remark. There has to be something about cognitive dissonance regarding the uniformity vs. being special aspect of humanity.

While someone who doesn’t know you well could say that you have an unremarkable life, the reality is that they cannot tell because they have not seen any remark and thus have paid less attention to you – because that, too, is how it works. Popularity, a complex subject by itself, drives what people think is remarkable. If someone sings very well and sells their music, it doesn’t make them popular. Are they unremarkable? Or are they just unremarked? That a relatively small newspaper writes an article about you – let’s assume positively – means to that audience, you are considered remarked upon and therefore, possibly, remarkable. Possibly.

The harsh reality is that the vast majority of people live unremarked lives other than being statistics for revenue streams or votes, and the only reason that they are seen as remarkable is when they affect them. In social media, we call them social media influencers. This sounds like a really impressive thing to be because one who is an influencer and gets to find out can have all sorts of effect on society. They can convince people to drink Kool-Aid in Jonestown, Guyana, or to work together for bettering something or the other in society. To be an influencer is to have a level of responsibility that, arguably, wiser people might avoid.

And so, the only truly unremarkable people in an age where social media has made it possible for everyone to shout or whisper, “Look at me!”, are those unremarked.

To be unremarked today is to be quite remarkable.

Facebook vs. Australia.

Generally, I try to avoid commenting on current events because they are so polarizing, but I do have a pretty strong opinion about Facebook vs. Australia. The premise of Australia’s law is simple: Pay the content generators rather than having them pay Facebook for advertsing that their content is more visible.BartMakeABetterWorldising

This turns what social media tech platforms have been doing on it’s head, and I appreciate not only the fact that content creators, such as myself, gain something from being shared on social media, but also that the profit disparity between the content platform and the content creators. This, too, is nothing new – ask any band or writer. But it’s not necessarily right because it’s the way it has been.

So, effectively, what is happening is Australia’s government is trying to negotiate for the hostage ( money for creators), and so… Facebook shot the hostage.

Looks like it really is time to find new ways of doing things, because the tech giants seem more interested in perpetuating a business model where content creators are creating content for the company store that they get to advertise in. Wait, what?

Why Problems Aren’t Solved.

thoreau_lock_and_keyAs a member of the Board for what could best be explained as a condo community, I find myself shaking my head quite a bit. One of the reasons I do so is because, simply put, people become more emotionally attached to a problem than a solution. One such example was an issue of a missing key. But the issue wasn’t the missing key. The issue was getting to what the key gave access to: The garbage room.

There’s a story behind that, as there usually is, but at this point in time there’s actually little good reason for the garbage room to be locked. At one time, there was some rationale, but that rationale has been found wanting as other things have changed. I had predicted this prior to coming on the Board, communicated it with the Director who pushed it (who is now no longer on the Board), and so I waited over the course of a week as this can got kicked around in community chats.

The conversation centered around the key. The key became this Holy Grail of sorts, and everyone wanted to blame someone for the issue regarding the key (it is lost to the entropy of bureaucracy, suffice to say). After a week, I finally sounded off because the time it was taking for people to sort out the problem had exceeded my patience.

“We don’t need the locks on the garbage rooms anymore.”

The underlying issue was that people couldn’t access the garbage room for bags that were larger than the chute. Everyone wanted to play the blame game about the key, and meanwhile, the garbage room was still inaccessible. And this set me to thinking because when large groups of fairly intelligent people disappoint in their capacity to solve a simple problem, it’s time to think.

The Solving Of Problems

There is a tendency to get caught up in minutiae, trying to solve a smaller problem with an assumption that solving the smaller problem will somehow continue solving a larger problem. In the above example, it was a simple matter of switching perspectives, a flexibility in viewpoint to be circumspect. Generally speaking, education systems, perhaps because of the amount of time to shove a few thousand years of knowledge into less than 20 years, doesn’t deal with this well.

Let’s be honest, too – the present techno-communication landscape of social media is more suited for allowing for cognitive bias: Social media sites, in their wish to get our eyes on their advertising, show us what we agree with rather than well rounded opinions. It’s all an echo chamber and makes looking for valuable dissent (as opposed to popular dissent) all the less likely to be found.

If we are only presented that which we agree with, how are we to move forward? If a solution is chosen because of popularity on social media, how valuable is that solution? And do all these people with opinions have knowledge on the topic or add value somehow, or are they simply looking for views on their website, just as without social media sometimes people add their opinions to look smart even when their opinion demonstrates that they are not?

It seems to me – and we all have biases on this – that the world is getting better at communicating solutions that are popular, but not right – and therein, we find the core problem, and the solution is… well, I’m sure I don’t know.

Cooking and Social Media

Ingredients for soupCooking is something that everyone around the world is doing more of as we hunker down during the Covid-19 epidemic, and some of us are good at it, some of us are good at taking pictures of it, and some of us are… not.

The same applies to social media.

A friend of mine – a smart person, a productive person, a kind person and a busy person – keeps sending me stuff on WhatsApp that I’ve already seen on Facebook. I told him this, and he told me he doesn’t like what he sees on Facebook.

In my opinion, the trouble he has is that he’s too kind to be more selective of his ingredients – he values the relationships more than what he gets out of them. This, as I said, is an opinion and says as much about me as it does about how I see him.

I am relentless in selecting my ingredients. When I’m actually cooking, I choose the ingredients I like (confirmation bias) best, but sometimes I have to make do with what I have.

With social media, I don’t have to make do with what I have. I don’t have to like what is offered to me, I can choose to spend my time toward creating what I like (confirmation bias), but… I can also choose the things I do not agree with that are also palatable to offer contrasts in the overall flavor.

Contrast makes things interesting. So I stand outside of what I like and don’t like and work toward an overall result – which is like cooking. I don’t particularly like onions, as an example, but I do like them in certain ways and so I choose my onions carefully.

So it is with dissenting opinion. No one actually likes dissenting opinion, but if we accept that our opinions are not who we are, and rather that we are the Chefs that use different ideas, trains of thought, and beliefs to come up with our own recipe – our own unique recipe – then we need dissenting opinion. It adds flavor, contrast – and ultimately, without flavor or contrast, the end result is boring.

Thus, when choosing a social media adventure, get some of the dissenting opinion in the mix, as well as the stuff you like.

Everything else? Toss out.

I would have gone with gardening, but weeds are things we fling out when gardening because a weed, by definition, has no value whereas good dissenting opinion does.

Choose Your Social Media Adventure

ChoicesWhen I was growing up, their were paperbacks where you chose your own adventure. You’d read a few paragraphs and the author would have you make a choice or roll dice to decide which part you would read next. As someone who grew up with much time to myself, I found myself ‘playing’ quite a few of these books and experimenting with things so that I could see the narrative twist.

Games at the time of this writing have become quite good at it.

It’s also what we do with social media. We make choices, decisions, whether consciously or not.

I play with it in what I once termed ‘Deep Writing’, but which I’ll now call ‘Deep Narrative Writing‘ because I think it suits it better and is less confusing than the tag for writing about deep learning (which some nutty people decided needed a tag other than ‘deep learning’).

The Conscious Choices

Everyone limits social media to a degree. It’s impossible to read everything, to consider every perspective, so we progress through our real world adventure by making choices. Some people are idiots, some are annoying, some are people we cannot stand for our own reasons, so we remove them from our networks.

Everyone also feeds their own confirmation bias to a degree as well – we pay attention to some people more than others, and this too is natural because to do anything, we have to decide quickly on how to progress.

The trouble is, invariably, what we ‘like’ is not what we ‘need’. Yet we do choose these (mis)adventures, and hopefully we learn things of value and also things that have no value if we have well developed critical thinking skills and a strong sense of self – a sense of self strong enough to have one’s own opinion that may not allow one to march in stride with the people whose arms are locked and marching down the information superhighway demanding, protesting, or believing what is best described as ‘nutty’.

I’m fairly certain everyone agrees so far on everything written – internalized, it should make some sort of sense. And yet everyone’s experience is different, and invariably, tribes form of like minds who… march down the information superhighway, demanding, protesting, and possibly believing something best described as ‘nutty’.

Somewhere in the not so distant past, whether something was nutty or not was decided by whether it was popular or not, which, if one pauses for just long enough to consider, is something best described as nutty.

Then we take sides and call each other nutty. Examples? Religions and politics are brilliant examples because every side believes that they are right.

Well, of course they are right. It would be unpopular to think otherwise, and therefore, people might describe that as ‘nutty’.

“You’re obviously right in what you think and believe as long as you agree with… me. Us.”, says everyone’s subconscious – the very definition of confirmation bias.

The Unconscious Choices

There’s an argument to be made that some of the conscious choices are for most people unconscious choices. By accident of the who, what, where and when of your birth, you may have grown up with a specific religion, grew up with a set of beliefs that shaped your politics, etc. This gets into the nature versus nurture debate to an extent if you drill down, but in the end it doesn’t matter. We all have similar biases.

That’s not what I’m writing about when I write of  the unconscious choice. I’m writing about the algorithms that shape what you see on the Internet, through social networks, search engines, and what you – simply put – simply like.

Search engines use algorithms to find what you’re looking for, and the key to them – the good search engines anyway – is knowing what you’re looking for. An example of this was while I was searching for television mounts in Trinidad and Tobago.

I wanted something that could hold a monitor 4 feet away from me. The trouble is most desks, including my desk which I do like, are 24 inches or less, which has the monitor too close for my liking with the bigger screen. I considered a wall mount, but I’m not a big fan of drilling into a wall when I may reorganize the space at any time. Shelving might be a good idea, but again – drilling. So, having never even seen a floor mounted television stand, I searched the internet for just that – not a stand with shelves, just a plain old floor mount stand that I could move wherever I wished and adjust as needed (something else to worry about with more permanent solutions)… and there it was on

I didn’t originally know the right question to ask because I had to work through it. This is the failure of people who depend on only what they know asking only what they know about.

Then there are the algorithms across the internet which, because nothing is actually ‘free’ on the Internet, drives advertising revenues for websites (including social networks). So they record some information about you in the infamous cookies that no one has tasted, and they show you advertising based on what you view, as well as what other things on their collection of websites that you might enjoy. The downside of this is that it robs you of new experiences unless you try really hard – consciously – to explore. It’s gotten more difficult.

The social networks, though you have conscious choices of who or what you connect with, do not show you the choices. Facebook newsfeeds, as an example, would simply be unmanageable if you tried to keep up with everyone. So they, being ad-revenue based, guide you based on what you like, what you read, and you end up unconsciously in a cave of your own confirmation bias.

Cave? Yes, eventually, you find yourself walled in within something that Plato himself described in the Allegory of the Cave when the world was significantly simpler. In the age of social media, Cavafy’s “Walls” gains new meaning:

Walls, Constantine P. Cavafy

Without consideration, without pity, without shame
they have built great and high walls around me.

And now I sit here and despair.
I think of nothing else: this fate gnaws at my mind;

for I had many things to do outside.
Ah why did I not pay attention when they were building the walls.

But I never heard any noise or sound of builders.
Imperceptibly they shut me from the outside world.

But What Can I Do?

Simply put, be aware of it and be critical of your own media. Where you find walls, you also have the capacity to insert windows and doors in that cavern the world has built for you.

Should you step outside, you may find the world an interesting place.