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Idiocy on the Internet?

Why does it seem there is so much idiocy, ignorance, and blatant assholery on the internet?

Well read on, folks. I have the answers. But first, some examples of what I mean.

Action: You post a brand new novel release to 24,000 avid readers.

Reaction: 113 views. 5 likes. 2 shares.

Action: You post a meme about how to find your leprechaun name.

Reaction: 17,849 views, 711 shares, 32 likes.

Does the above scenario sound familiar? Or how about the one below?

Action: You post a story about progress that brings hope for a solution to a global disaster.

Reaction: 63 views, 7 likes, 3 shares.

Action: You post a story about the most horrendous thing you've ever heard of.

Reaction 73,000 views, 1,110 likes, 243 shares.

Why is there so much idiocy on the internet?

Yeah, here's the thing. And I'm afraid this is gonna sting a little.

It's not the internet. It's us.

Here's what I mean. The internet only shows us what we tell it to show us. It does this through algorithms, which a lot of people feel are taking control away from individual users.

But I believe there's a way we can use those mysterious, notorious social media algorithms to our advantage both on the internet and in the real world.

Because, you see, algorithms work exactly the same way real life works. They send us more of whatever we pay attention to.

Posts that piss us off encourage us to react. Every reaction tells the powers that be (in this case, Zuckerberg's AI) to send us more of whatever we reacted to. So if we react with a frown emoji or an angry comment or even a counter-point to the negative post, we are in effect saying, "Please send me more posts like this. I really want to see them. You can tell I really want to see them, because out of all the stuff you've sent me, this is what I reacted to."

Facebook's Built-in Gas Gauge

Many will read this and say, "but I almost never click on nasty stuff. I almost always pay more attention to the positive." But sometimes what we think we're doing, what we would prefer to be doing, isn't what we're actually doing.

Here's an easy way to tell what you're paying attention to online. Look at your newsfeed. See what Facebook is showing you. Every single post in your stream is a reflection of what Facebook thinks you want to see and nobody is telling Facebook what you want to see except for you. So go to your stream and just scroll. Notice how many posts are things you want to see, and how many are not. Then you see where you might want to make some adjustments.

Most of the posts in our feed are based on things we have previously taken action on. Facebook takes note of how long we look at a post and how much of a video we watch. It notices if we tap an emoji to express our feelings about a post -- not WHICH emoji we chose, just THAT we chose one. That tells FB to send me more like this. They notice if we comment, even if our comment is "This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen in my life and I never want to see anything like it again!" The algorithm reads that comment as, "I reacted to this. Send me more."

It's not just Facebook, though.

The entire Internet is conspiring to help us monitor our mindset. I looked at a cute pair of sneakers in a physical store one day, and ads for those very shoes, which I did not even buy, followed me around the net for weeks.

Retailers from Amazon on down offer suggestions of what they think we might like to buy next, based on things we've bought or looked at before.

Even our TV sets gets in on this game of reflecting our own attitude back to us. Most systems nowadays make suggestions as to what we might like to watch next. Look at the things it thinks you'd like. Notice that they are dependent on what you've been watching. My first two suggestions are pretty regularly MSNBC and CNN, but I'm trying to nudge it over toward Planet Earth and old re-runs of Emergency! and Quincy M.E. and I'm making progress. Mostly.

Here's your homework

Give your newsfeed a browse. What do you see? I was just noticing that I must be doing better ignoring the idiotic posts and clicking on the ones I like, because I'm seeing more and more uplifting posts and fewer of the ones that piss me off. My feed this morning had lots of posts with happy animal tales, environmental improvements, vegan recipes, people doing kind things for other people, new book releases, old books on sale, brand new authors releasing their very first story, books being made into movies, etc.

Break the habit of commenting on or reacting to posts that you find upsetting. But that's only half the battle. To truly break a habit, we must overwrite it with a better habit. Otherwise it's never really gone. So make an even stronger effort to like, share, and comment on things you find uplifting, fun, positive. Things that feel good. Things that educate and enlighten. Things that encourage and comfort. Things that bring hope and joy. You'll see a shift in your feed within just a few days.

Now for the great big aha moment of this entire post.

It happens in nature, too

The most amazing part about doing this experiment is that it opens our eyes and makes us more aware of where our heads are at. And it doesn't take long to then realize that it's not just social media where this happens. These algorithms were not invented by Google or Facebook. They were invented by nature. By the Universe. Zuck and the rest of the tech giants aren't creating anything new. They're just imitating life itself.

Life, like Facebook, will always bring us more of whatever has our attention.

The Universe is a mirror. It can only reflect what we are.

And just the same way we can look at our newsfeed and let it show us where our focus needs work, we can look at our lives and see where our attitudes need adjusting.

If everything around us is pissing us off, the problem, dear ones, is entirely within us, and the solution is, too. Stop paying attention to the things that piss us off. Pay more attention to the things that bring us joy.

Doing this will change more than our newsfeed. It will change our lives.


If you enjoyed this post, this is the sort of thing I post regularly over on The Bliss Blog.


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