Why Facebook Wants Us To Be Dumb

Forgive the clickbait-sounding headline for just a moment.

I see a repeated pattern on Facebook that has turned me off to a point I’ve substantially reduced my use: A range of misinformation from outright stupidity to literally federal offenses (threatening statements expressing a desire to kill the president*)  to general BS supporting a bias.

I’ve even inadvertently been part of this cycle, reposting unvetted BS.

I even briefly worked in TV news as a college student and should know better – but here’s where we get to the real issue: posting truth requires time, more time than most are willing to invest. Truth is messy, and should even be used in air quotes in conversation, because there is no single truth most of the time, simply dubious facts, degrees of truth, perspective, values.

I wish Facebook would buy Snopes.

They won’t. There’s money in misinformation, and more specifically, anger.

Anger is probably the single most psychologically-activating hook-trigger there is. In Nir Eyal’s book Hooked, he outlines how Facebook is very carefully designed to keep you addicted. They’re really, really good at it.

But only if you don’t think too hard.

If you do think deeply, you’ll post insightful, balanced, truthful info. This won’t make anyone angry. It gets a handful of likes, but doesn’t go viral, and is quickly lost in a sea of signals.

Meanwhile, Kim K “breaks the internet” with moronic pictures, and galvanizes millions of dollars worth of attention over nothing.

We have AI bots that can write news well – you already read it and don’t even know it. But what’s the purpose of news, really? I want only the big headlines. I use font size to gauge importance, but why? To seem informed at cocktail parties? Investment insights for personal gain? Why do any of us watch the news?

News isn’t “fair and balanced” either – their goal is sell ads, and ride some line to hold viewers. There’s no money in “truth”, just in the flow of information that holds your attention enough to sell ads.

Britain’s BBC was fascinating in that it wasn’t ad supported, it was paid for by a tax on TVs. There are alternatives, but most of the internet media is ad-driven.

It started harmlessly enough, Facebook, but it’s time to break up. Let’s go back to just being friends.

Until you curate some intelligence.

I miss the neighborhood non-chain coffee shop, and yes, that ages me. At least points of view were tempered by politeness afforded face to face conversations with real people. If you’re one of them, let’s have a beer. Even if we are diametrically opposed politically, a free spirited disagreement supported by facts makes us richer humans.

Not trolls.


Further reading for smart people:

*I took this as 100% spewing off, not a serious threat, however, I found it incredibly disrespectful. My personal opinion is that President Obama has been great, is hands down the smartest we’ve had in a while, and cool to boot. Regardless, amidst the dumbest decisions of George W. Bush, never would I disrespect the office regardless of how vehemently I disagreed with his positions.

Actively Seeking Being Mistaken

I recently had a great conversation with someone I would like to hire*, and in it, discovered some mistakes I was making in my marketing strategy.

Good conversations will do that.

Originally I’d title this “Actively seeking being wrong”, but “wrong” can mean either morally unjustifiable or factually mistaken. By uncovering mistakes as fast as possible, one can get closer to truth, or if there isn’t a single “truth”, then a superior strategy or point of view.

First, a few ironies:

  1. “… fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts” – Bertrand Russell
  2. More simplistically, idiots think they’re smart, and smart people know they’re not.
  3. Anyone who’s a do-er is more likely to get “lost in the woods”, as a byproduct of being too close to the problem and/or swayed from course.

In my “bad news insight” referred to above, I wasn’t thinking enough about change management – i.e. how resistant or receptive organizations are to change and thus adopting our software. In short, I was asking clients to bite off too much change too fast.

With a slight adjustment to how we sell, the uptake and conversations are easier. My mistake was being too attached to my own vision, instead of putting the client first – obvious, in retrospect, but easy to do for an engineer type like me.

In sales coaching, celebrating mistakes is key to avoiding sales pro burnout. Embracing the mistake as simply another lesson and point in the game helps keep it all in perspective.

Most startups and small businesses fail due to traction, not failure to execute some software – this represents a fundamental mistake in premise.. the classic “if you build it, they will come”. While this truly may work on occasion for true disruptions, most businesses are innovations, small improvements to existing ideas, versus truly disruptive. Google, Ebay, Amazon, Facebook – none of these were first to market in their respective spaces, and all required marketing (audience growing) even if just carefully engineered virality. Each took missteps along the way (Google’s customizable “be everything” homepage, Facebook’s privacy issues), but recognized the mistake, recovered quickly and stayed focused on their missions.

My final takeaway? I’m scheduling mistake discovery, for just a few minutes of reflect each Sunday. Perhaps my mistake, relayed to you, of not actively seeking mistakes enough will help you. Smart people plus a culture of embracing truth over pride can lead any company to growth and victory.

And a healthy marriage.

* We’re not ready.. and I’m unwilling to chase investment, as I view it as a distraction.