In the days since last Tuesday’s election, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people about the results and there has been one common thread in all of them: “Why didn’t we see this coming? How did we so underestimate the anger, the disaffection and mistrust and resentment, that so many Americans feel in the wake of the last eight years? We were aware that the economic recovery had been uneven; that workers in Rust Belt states were being displaced by technological advances. But the plusses so outweighed the negatives, didn’t they? And the momentous social change we’ve witnessed –- the election of our first African American president, the defeat of DOMA and passage of the Marriage Equality Act – had us believing that the arc of history wasn’t quite as long as we thought, that it was bending towards justice right now, in this decade.
So many of the young women I work with took their daughters to the polls with them on Tuesday to make sure they were part of this historic moment when we elected a woman to be President of the United States. How did we get it so wrong?
The better you get at personalizing my feed, the more you reinforce my beliefs, my assumptions, my prejudices.
There will no doubt be a tidal wave of opinions on this topic in the coming year, but here’s the one I hope you’ll ponder: for all the wonders of social media and its ability to connect me with 8th grade classmates and far-flung friends, it is also contributing to the balkanization of America. The better you get at personalizing my feed, surfacing content that mirrors what I’ve clicked on in the past and showing my posts to people who will “like” them, the more you reinforce my beliefs, my assumptions, my prejudices. Everyone on my facebook loves and admires Hillary Clinton. We all think Donald Trump is a dangerous boob who will be resoundingly defeated on November 7.
I would trade some of those posts from #ImWithHer women for a few from smart, college-educated women who had decided to vote for Trump.
There are no perfect algorithms. But I would trade some of those posts from #ImWithHer women for a few from smart, college-educated women who had decided to vote for Trump. Because the only thing worse than losing this election is the fact that I thought we had it in the bag. We may be too big and too diverse a nation to ever have an “American view” like the one de Toqueville wrote about after he visited the United States for the first time. But we will get further and further away from it until social media platforms stop feeding us content that increasingly reinforces what we already believe.
You can change this, Mark. You have the vast majority of Americans on Facebook today. Don’t balkanize us. Make us smarter, more empathetic. Open our eyes. What we do with that knowledge is up to us, but you can have a big impact on the inputs that inform our actions.
Views are my own and are not necessarily shared by AOL Inc or BBG Ventures.