Stranger Danger

Social Media, the Internet, the Cloud, the Metaverse, it’s hard to make sense of it all, but one thing is sure – it’s a mess. It’s rare to scan a paper or news app without seeing social media companies accused of manipulation, being sued, being hacked, or even losing a record amount of shareholder value in one day.

Facebook owner Meta sees biggest ever stock market loss

So, what’s the problem?  Why has being social become such a cesspool of outrage, trolling and clickbait? Why are politicians, journalists and even healthcare workers routinely the victims of online abuse? Doesn’t Big Tech have algorithms to prevent this type of behaviour? After all, how can Facebook micro-target you with ads if they don’t have the ability to control what you see?

My Mom told me not to talk to strangers

Big Tech companies routinely tout the power of their algorithms to sift through masses of posts and remove extreme content. They warn lawmakers during their innumerable public hearings that it’s the failure of human beings and not the algorithm that makes their timelines so toxic.

Despite people being racist, manipulative or just plain stupid, that’s not representative of the majority. Yet you’d be hard pressed to think so while scrolling through a typical social timeline.

The narrative on social media has become toxic primarily because people are commenting, liking, and forwarding posts from people they don’t really know. It’s very easy to troll or abuse a stranger, a second or third degree connection, rather than a friend or someone you have actually met.

Ask not what the post says but rather who said it?

In a post back in 2019, Being social is natural, today’s social media is not I discussed that the natural number of friends limit is approximately 150. This means that we can all maintain around 150 social connections but after which it all becomes ‘noise’. So, joining a social media platform such as Facebook with 1.9 billion daily active users is anything but a natural environment. 

It really gets out of hand with the hundreds of algorithmically-driven ‘introductions’ to second and third-degree connections – people you don’t actually know.

Social media companies and their most ardent influencers try to convince you that meeting new people is what being social is all about. There may be some logic to that, but can you really trust the opinions of executives, shareholders and influencers who make a very good living,  selling ads to strangers on these platforms?

You can use social media to meet people online but seriously, do you need to see post from a friend’s, friend’s, friend? How many of you have actually met in person the influencers you follow on Facebook or TikTok? Can you really trust their opinion when you know it’s for sale? 

There’s a simple solution

I would like to propose a simple solution: stop showing me posts from strangers. I’ve seen lots of crazy posts, but very rarely are they from one of my direct connections. I have no interest in hanging out with trolls and crackpots, nor do I appreciate seeing them in my timeline. So why do they keep showing up?

It’s the insertion of strangers into our timelines that is meant to make us more ‘social’, however, I believe it actually does the opposite. It’s much easier to give the finger to a stranger who cuts you off in traffic than it is to swear at a grandmother for driving too slowly. We often forget our manners and common decency when we’re surrounded by strangers. We don’t want to socialize with bad drivers, we just anonymously abuse them and move on.

This is not natural nor is it acceptable behaviour. Social Media has created cowards who can’t be bothered to make real connections with people, and I believe it’s ruining society. If we somehow stopped social media companies from inserting strangers’ posts into our timelines, we all just might think twice before trolling grandma.