In May, reports surfaced that Facebook had conducted an internal study to determine if claims were true that the platform polarizes its users. And indeed, the Facebook study concluded that the company’s algorithms “weren’t bringing people together but rather driving them apart.”
The study team went on to say that Facebook’s “algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness. If left unchecked, Facebook would feed users more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention and increase time on the platform” (Wall Street Journal, 26, May 2020).
How did the Facebook leadership team respond? They ignored the findings. Zuckerberg says he’s a proponent of free speech. I suspect the motive may be less pure, such as a reluctance to interfere with the high engagement rates on the site. Studies have also shown that when users enter the fray of divisiveness, they spend more time on Facebook.
Now Facebook is getting pushback for driving divisiveness. An advertiser boycott of Facebook is growing. Over 400 well-known brands, such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Starbucks and Verizon, are participating in the #StopHateforProfit campaign by pulling Facebook ads through the month of July.
Facebook didn’t react.
But now that hundreds of small business owners — which make up the majority of Facebook’s advertiser base — have joined the campaign, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg issued a statement which included this statement: “We are making changes—not for financial reasons or advertiser pressure, but because it is the right thing to do.”
Whether any real change will take place remains to be determined. Facebook could, for example, choose to promote politically neutral content on the platform that might bring people together around common interests like hobbies and activities rather than continue the steady diet of divisive content.
Say No to Exploitation
Social Media serves many good purposes. We can keep up with our family and friends. We can learn about products and events. We can join in calls to prayer. We can even find a humorous meme once in a while. But we can also, no we should also, choose not to be exploited by Facebook.
Peace is the only battle worth waging.Albert Camus
Refuse to join the battle. We can refrain from commenting on contentious posts we strongly disagree with. We can resist the impulse to repost combative memes we agree with. Better yet, we can request not to see the political junk. When divisive content appears in your feed, click on the three dots to the right of the poster’s name. You have several choices. If you select “Hide Post” you will see fewer posts like it. This, in turn, allows more space in your feed for what’s positive and helpful. Let’s help Facebook find common ground for us.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
A main theme of the Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s expectation that His children are characterized by peace. In fact, throughout the New Testament we read about the Christian standard of being a peacemaker. Paul stresses that Christians are to “do all that you can to live in peace with everyone” Romans 12:18 (NLT). A fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22), and other scriptures urge us to seek peace with all people. (Hebrews 12:14 NLT; James 3:17 NLT).
As Christians, we have a responsibility to promote peace on social media as well as in our face-to-face interactions.
What small step can you take to promote peace today?As Christians, we have a responsibility to promote peace on social media as well as in our face-to-face interactions. Click To Tweet