It was September 11, 2001, it was a sunny and crisp morning and I was sitting in the computer lab at college. It was then and there that I heard the news. A classmate who was sitting beside me broke the news to me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City! This was a time just before texting and instant notifications so he had found out the devastating news from an email that his friend had sent him. I was devastated! My small mind expected that this was just a freak “accident” and maybe it was a small Cessna-type plane that had hit the landmark building. With my curiosity peaked, I decided to investigate. I opened my web browser and loaded up CNN.com. Surely they would have some up-to-date news for me!
Up to this point of my young adulthood, CNN had always been my go-to place for world news. I spent a lot of my spare time scouring the CNN website for breaking news and I would often have the CNN TV channel tuned in when I was at home as background noise. I was a loyal consumer of the all-you-can-eat CNN buffet! But then it all changed. Instead of focusing on the facts, CNN began to lean hard on opinionated views of world events. Their headlines often became “click bait” and it was then I noticed that my world view was becoming tainted. I got wise to their tactics and stopped watching the TV channel and then eventually stopped browsing the website. I couldn’t stand the “news-chaser” mentality, so I gave up on CNN. I lost confidence in the information they were delivering and so they became “garbage news”.
My first experience with Facebook came in March 2007. I had heard about this website that gave users a place to catch-up with high school or college friends. I was kind of curious to hear from people that I haven’t heard from in over a decade. It didn’t take me long before I racked up a bunch of new “friends” that were at best old acquaintances years ago and soon I was peering into the lives of people that I had pretty much forgotten about. I was commenting on their status updates and liking pictures of their family and new houses. Facebook was amazing! For the first time in my life, I felt connected! and in some respects, popular! It wasn’t long before all of my close friends, family and life were on “The Facebook”. Online socialization was great!
Then it happened.
The corporate world found out about us and hit our screens with all of their advertising might. Nothing in life is free and both targeted advertising and special interest groups crept into our Facebook feeds. Along came sharing contests, food recipes, and game requests! It didn’t take long before our timelines looked more like a trading post and soap box than a place for me to catch up with my 3rd cousin twice-removed!
I then began to notice that my timeline was no longer in chronological order by default. Instead, it became shuffled to show posts that computer logic deemed relevant to me. Targeted ads became even more overbearing and I because of all the added noise, I started to miss important friend updates. Since when does computer logic know what is relevant to me? It wasn’t long before my social world view became tainted and just like CNN I lost faith in the information that was being presented to me. Facebook became “social media garbage” to me and while I am unable to turn it off like I did CNN, I have turned off its influence over me.
When we base our values on what we read and hear instead of what we feel and experience, then we will lose our hope and life purpose. Our hope dwindles each time we believe that we are not at the controls of our world view because of a headline we see. We lose our purpose if we allow our outward appearance to online pseudo friends to become our obsession. In an hyper-connected society, we are losing our hope and purpose by being tunnel visioned in an online world that is shaped by corporate power and fear mongering. When we integrate our world views to the meddled news on CNN and/or the corporate shape-shifted timelines on Facebook, we become hopeless puppets to the world which has no direction.