We all have “friends” on social media who post things that we are opposed to, offended by, and even block for. Social media is full of promise, and full of shit. As unprecedented and full of promise as it is, it more frequently used to spread opinion that to actually communicate. It was instrumental in the launce of Arab Spring, and for organizing protests, it is also the chosen means to recruit for fascist organizations, spread divisiveness and hate.
THE WOLF YOU FEED
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
Social Media may feed the wolf
“Run a Google search for “black girls”—what will you find? “Big Booty” and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in “white girls,” the results are radically different. The suggested porn sites and un-moderated discussions about “why black women are so sassy” or “why black women are so angry” presents a disturbing portrait of black womanhood in modern society.
In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.
Through an analysis of textual and media searches as well as extensive research on paid online advertising, Noble exposes a culture of racism and sexism in the way discoverability is created online. As search engines and their related companies grow in importance—operating as a source for email, a major vehicle for primary and secondary school learning, and beyond—understanding and reversing these disquieting trends and discriminatory practices is of utmost importance.”
There has been a lot of discussion about how social media algorithms feed the wolf, from the President’s twitter, to current television shows, to the halls of academia. Social media is everywhere, and I question if we have the tools to understand how we can be influenced by what we see? I wish I had an answer to that. I do believe that the corporate profitability will trump, no pin intended, ethical considerations in almost every instance. It is a very fine line between free speech and censorship, it is a fine line between freedom and indentured servitude, and I ask if we can even see those lines anymore?
I do believe that social media and the tools it provides can be vital to changing the world if we are disciplined in our use and understand how the algorithms work and can be manipulated. One of the greatest challenges is who sees what you post? I have read that only 10% or your “friends” actually see any post you make. If that is true, reaching people and engaging them is 90% more difficult than it should be. Social media has a great deal of promise if we can do our part in social media use and in pushing these companies to become more transparent and to open the gates of algorithmic censorship.
I cannot discuss here the issue of policing fake news and deep fake events, and the use of the first amendment arguments to prevent that. I also cannot discuss the proliferation on memes that may or may not contain falsehoods but agree with the point of view on the poster. Even though this issue more than many others creates a polarized point of view, alienates potential allies, and prevents meaningful discussion. I do want to conclude this section with these two statements for us all: Beware your security in anonymity, and there are human beings, mostly, on the other side of the screen, they may not post things you agree with, but they should be respected as humans even if they say hateful things. Disengage rather than blast, discuss, and listen rather than argue. Just some thoughts, under life is too short.
 Excerpt of a review of Safiya Umoja’s book, Algorithms of Oppression
Photo by Jeremy Weber
I do not know anyone who does not believe that something is very wrong, they disagree on what it is, and what the cause is, but in their guts, where our human instinct still lives, they feel the wrongness acutely.
Change, in our current cultural environment, has shown us that change is not often a good thing, we tend to fear it, actually we tend to fear everything, because we are not thriving, we are barely surviving, and it is only going to get worse.
Change happens whether we are engaged in the process or not, the problem is that our culture has programmed us to believe we are alone and must stand alone. This is not how humans are wired, we are driven to be in community, yet the virtual offerings of community we have , based on cultural designations, do not meet the needs of our humanity, leaving us even more alone.
Yes, I am saying that our culture is at odds with our humanity. How is this possible? Culture, while required by humans to live together, is a construct that is programmed over time. Since we are programmed to believe we are alone and have no real human connection to community/tribe, we are not actively engaged in the process of programming culture. Like everything else, culture is programmed by the few who have the most to gain from our disconnection.
Is it any surprise then that the fear that is used to keep us at odds, also prevents us from recognizing the issue and dealing with it by embracing our humanity and having human community?
I wish there was a pill we could take like in the Matrix, there isn't. There is a framework for change and a process that can help us get to the point where reprogramming is possible, but you need to engage. Can you get past your fear and understanding of our lives to do that?
Join us on this journey, get your Passport to Resilience and climb aboard.