Facebook and Trump

So a young man invents a website to rate girls by looks and 2 billion users later it is used to put a dangerous populist in charge of the most powerful country in the world and probably to help start the break up of the EU. All done through careful messaging crafted to tweak the emotions of voters in what I would call a form of magic.

There are lessons for us all here!

I hope that none of us are so lacking in self-awareness as to be too easily influenced by what we see in the media but I’m certain all of us are influenced to some degree. But targeted messages based on a set of known characteristics and preferences delivered onto our Facebook feed that nudge us gently in a direction repeated over and over again are hard to protect oneself against. It is tough trying to resist having our views manipulated.

So what can we do? While it is easy to say “don’t use social media” the reality is different. Even if we don’t use the internet at all we still see the headlines of the newspapers, beautifully nuanced to stir an emotion in us that temps us to buy the thing so we can find out more, only to get the editors’ views and preferences reinforced as we read the thing.

Do we avoid looking at anything that isn’t a fluffy kitten learning to walk? No, they will use those kittens against us somehow.

The answer is to go in with our eyes open and our brains engaged. It is to be aware of ourselves and our feelings but also what is happening in the world around us and how we connect to our world. It is to question every message and piece of news that we receive. To ask who has sent this, why, what agenda do they have, does this change my views and is there any reason for this information poking my emotions. The last point on emotions is probably the most important, they are what nudge us to think and act differently.

Finally, remember that if you are building a website to rank girls by looks it is likely to be used for even worse purposes eventually.



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