Yawning into the Divide: How Facebook became boring

facebook-is-boring

Is it just me, or have the non-stop memes, the incessant ads and the fact that I only see the same twenty people post (thanks algorithm) made Facebook—gasp—BORING?!? In an informal poll of three other friends, we’ve all come to the same conclusion. Mind you, I’m not one of those who have always derided Facebook. Back in 2008 I appreciated the opportunity to see what happened to my long-last classmates, loved the fact that I could share my outrage of the day, and welcomed the ability to chronicle my travels and kid’s antics.

But in the past couple years I’ve noticed a huge drop off not only in engagement with posts, but the variety of voices I’d once seen on Facebook. Have I unfollowed or been unfriended by that many?   Perhaps.

Have others left the platform, keeping their accounts active, but eliminating their on-line presence?   Likely.

I wouldn’t blame them. For a multitude of reasons I threaten to quit Facebook on a weekly basis, but I remain on for one reason: I need a platform. Ask any artist, writer, creative or small business owner and they are told that the way to get ahead is to build a presence on social media. I’m slowly building one on Medium, and I have my blog(s), but I suspect that most of my blog entries are read only because I post them on Facebook.

So I find myself

Scrolling

Scrolling

Scrolling

Through my feed.  Yawn.

Two ways Facebook could be less boring:

1-It needs some sort of geographical catchment: What do I mean by this? It should allow you to curate your posts towards those who you believe need the information in your vicinity. Do I care that a dog is lost in Great Falls Montana? In a global sense, I’m sure there’s a second where I think, poor pup but it doesn’t help me, the dog, or the owner to see that post while I sit in Virginia and it just clutters up my feed.

2-Move away from memes and slide into stories: Social media rewards outrage, and one way of doing this through memes. In fact the number one reason Facebook is boring me is that it seems to have become a political battlefield of memes. What are memes? They are a piece of visual, short-form media, that are often funny, and spread throughout the internet. Because they are easily shared, they have become weaponized, as they were in the 2016 election. They are useful in that they can reinforce your membership into the tribe and because they are impersonal, trolls can forget they are attacking a person, when they attack the meme.

You know what can slay trolls and encourage encourages democracy at the same time?

Stories.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting rather than seeing another meme about Medicare for all, reading your friend’s deep experience with healthcare and what they experienced to make Medicare For All resonate for them?

And instead looking at a meme about how the Trump Administration is like the Nazis, wouldn’t you want to hear a story from a friend of a time he didn’t feel safe and who protected them?

Noted cognitive scientist, George Lakoff has talked a lot about empathy and what happens to our brains when we hear and tell stories. Storytelling literally builds the cognitive muscles necessary for empathy. Empathy not only fights genocide and reminds us of each other’s humanity, it strengthens democracy.

During the 2018 election I was working with a team of women who were trying to seed storytelling on Facebook. We had prompts that asked people to share their stories and while it wasn’t a screaming success, (not enough engagement and perhaps no clear understanding of purpose) we did see a number of stories.

And in those stories about a first time voting, a childhood separation and a moment when we helped another, we were able to experience an element of surprise, and even whimsy. Those two emotions are never boring, and they extend beyond politics to a shared human experience, which is what Facebook once championed. Facebook built a vehicle for our social engagement, but we can drive it. As much as it didn’t plan on the platform to be used to incite genocide in Myanmar, it doesn’t have to power to stop us from ignoring the worst parts and building on the best. Which is for the meantime…in our control.

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