On using Facebook or why, with all due respect, Jono is wrong

Long time listener but first time poster.

I was checking the latest episode yesterday and the discussion about using Facebook made me want to chime in.

With all due respect, those of us who, like Jono, say there’s no problem in them using Facebook (or other social media engaged in massive collecting of users’ data, for that matter), fail to see the real problem there, IMHO.

It’s not a matter of sharing info you’d feel uncomfortable being made public, that’s not the problem at all. The problem is profiling. Think about what happened in the US election or Brexit: if what is claimed about Cambridge Analytica is true - and actually I think it doesn’t matter much, because it may not be true now, but will be one day if things keep going this way -, these companies use your preferences, interests, fears and so on to figure out what would make the most effect on forming your opinions on a given topic of their interest.
The takeaway here is that even if you use these services in “read-only mode”, youre already giving all the information they need to figure out that this or that subject is sensitive to you and that one is not. More than enough to keep threatening our democracies.

All the best to everyone!


Yes, this is something along the lines of psychological marketing. Something that advertisers and the like have been using for 40 years or more. They use to focus more on demographics, but find that targeting, not people in an area, but people in a mindset, is much more effective. The biggest difference here is the medium, the likes of Facebook.

I don’t care about politics and do not want to be political at all. But I do see a huge hypocrisy here. Mr. Obama was praised for using Facebook in the 2012 election. http://swampland.time.com/2012/11/20/friended-how-the-obama-campaign-connected-with-young-voters/ Had the votes went the other way in the elections being mentioned and the other campaigns used Facebook, would there be an uproar over it? I seriously doubt it.

The thing is that the medium makes a huge difference here, since it allows for an insanely more granular approach. When all is said and done - and I’m guessing here -, it may amount to why the social tissue has been so drastically stretched in the last decade, to the point of people feeling they are not able to communicate anymore with those who see some specific topics in a different light.

If you want to know what I think about this in terms of this whole psychological marketing thing, I think there should be limits to how marketing tries to influence people and in what subjects it should be allowed to touch. Of course all sorts of problems arise from trying to define these limits, but we should try, because we’re seeing the result of the current state of things. To stick to the elections example, people are influenced by how a given candidate looks, which song plays in the campaign, by the colors of their flag… it really shouldn’t be this way. Of course there’s a problem there and our educational systems have been failing miserably in terms of counterbalancing it.

Anyway, to really answer to your point: the fact that people have been doing something similar for years doesn’t prove much, as it serves to reinforce my point or yours depending on how one chooses to see it (either we arrived at a bad situation because of this or they’ve been doing it for years and humanity has survived). Please note that I’m not talking about Trump or Brexit here, but about something far broader, like the criteria some people base themselves to vote mentioned in the last paragraph, for instance.

As for the hypocrisy charges you’d have a hard time guessing my political views from what I wrote. I’m not even American or British and don’t vote in these countries. It really has nothing to do with who won some election, but with the fact that propaganda (something pernicious, as I see it) has been getting even stronger because of the whole data collection thing. If you want a straight answer, yes, I’d feel extremely uncomfortable if we got to know that data collection helped Obama direct propaganda to specific people in a way that it would create an unbalance in the way they can assess what he would do if elected, his priorities, his past missteps and so on.

Anyway, your reply didn’t address the core point of my argument, namely that the data those services collect on us actually helps them play on people’s thinking and emotions far deeper than before hence just sharing things we’re OK with going public doesn’t deal with the real issue here.

Sorry for the long reply. Best!

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Are you saying that people can be manipulated? :smile:

It does seem that the “players” are just getting better at the game using the relatively new tools available.

What amuses me is that the media is basically freaking out over this. IF data like this can be used successfully, and for little money, why spend hundreds of millions on media ads?

By the way, I appreciate your perspective as someone who’s not in the soup, so to speak.

Yes! If you know my browsing history and who my friends are you can target your message specifically to me.

Who says it’s for little money. Each individual message may cost less but there are a lot more messages to create and you have to mine the data to know which messages to target me with as opposed to say you.

For example in the USA religion is more important than say the UK for that reason political adverts in the US tend more on being say a good church goer than UK ones do but if you know someone is say Sikh you wouldn’t want bombard their social media about what a good Christian you. But, If he owned a small company you might want to target that.

The big advertising campaigns still exist today because not everyone is happy to give up their data but this might change over time unless we take steps to stop it.

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Just remembered the term I was trying to use earlier. It was Psychographics.

The problem is that “manipulated” is too strong a word, but, let’s face it, we all can be somewhat made to believe in certain things or played into doing stuff we wouldn’t do if we had not had contact with this or that person, this or that information etc. Of course, I may be expanding too much the notion of manipulation - after all that’s how the world works: we meet people, listen to them, pay attention to things, and act according to a combination of all things we have dealt with -, but, once again, a difference in degree eventually becomes a qualitative leap (I hope all these words exist in English, apologies as it’s not my native language), which leads to another thing you said…

The problem is the degree to which it happens. People are getting unbalanced, lopsided or even false ideas about the world because of how algorithms work, pushing a lot of what will have the desired impact and leaving in the shade all nuance, complexity or contradiction.

Yes, you can argue that when people lived in small communities it was all “natural” phenomena, but I’d reply that, at least in the West, the most widely accepeted narrative about how Humanity progressed throught the centuries states that it was precisely because of the circulation of knowledge, people meeting each other and having their views of the world be influenced by one another. Social media promised to give us that in a whole new other level in this regard, but that’s not what is happening.

To wrap up, I think this is bad use of marketing techniques. They are going too far and we are seeing it deploy in front of us. We should be discussing how to avoid these problems.

You’re welcome :slight_smile: , but actually I 'm not sure if I have said much about this apart from general considerations. After all, I may not be in the soup of trumpism or Brexit, but I have to deal with the effects of tracking, data mining and the “algorithmization of the world” in my own life in my own country.


I am impressed by how precise your words are. I tend to blather! :smile:

About all of what you are describing is one reason why some old people, like me, and some not so old, become jaded, cynical. It’s not that I cannot be convinced of something (chemtrails? umm, no! :smile:) it just takes a bit more convincing. The principle about newspapers, that I have quoted before, applies to any medium on which we obtain information.

“Foolish is the man who never reads a newspaper; even more foolish is the man who believes what he reads just because it is in the newspaper.”​—August von Schlözer, German historian and journalist of the late 18th century.

I guess it comes down to that it is my responsibility to test out information for it’s veracity. I, however, do appreciate the help of ones here, @neuro comes to mind, that have pointed out errors in information or in my own reasoning. Heck, my reasoning has been shot full of holes so many times, I could use it for a colander!


I’ve never come across this particular quote but I am aware of a similar one though I can’t remember the source off-hand:

The only thing that worse than the man who has never read a book is the man who has read just one book.

Because if you think about it: The man who has never read a book is uninformed but at least his opinions are his own. The man who has only read one book can’t even claim that.

We need to listen to historic records and the opinions to come to our own conclusions by a critical analysis and exploring alternative views to our own.

Greg, there is much that you @neuro and myself share in common and I am sure we could spend a pleasant few hours together if we were to find each other in the same bar or hotel for example. But we do have differing views on several subjects and I have learnt from both of you because of your willingness to challenge my ideas. I’m not trying to single out @neuro and yourself here as I could say the same about many in this community and I hope I have been able to challenge the views of others here too.

Many people now rely on very specific news sources, such as social media, and so self select the type of news they get to hear. This is a pity but it does create an open door to push against and if you know somebodies interests well enough you can push views that will not but should be challenged.


I fear I might have the Ted Striker effect on you and @neuro

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I doubt that very much :heart:

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