Media shapes society, has political impact, and in democracies Media determines who rules the country, and thereby the ‘Free World’. In other words, it’s important. Commercially social media has had a fundamental impact on mainstream media. But the disruption goes much deeper than that. It goes right to the very core of media, the disruption of PRINCIPLES.
Here’s an example, from a principled media.
Published since September 1843 to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.”
The Economist know why it exists. And the severe contest it is engaged in has never been more so.
What are the Principles of Social Media?
Connecting people isn’t a principle. It’s a function, a process. Connecting people is not the same as unifying them. Indeed, it may be the opposite.
Specifically, what are the principles of Facebook?
I Google it. And here we see core problems with Facebook itself.
“We are building Facebook to make the world more open and transparent, which we believe will create greater understanding and connection.”
They state they are creating something in the belief it will effect greater understanding and connection. In practice, Facebook is creating the opposite effect, at scale. Why?
“Facebook promotes openness and transparency by giving individuals greater power to share and connect, and certain principles guide Facebook in pursuing these goals.”
Does anyone here feel Facebook is open? Transparent? Indeed. They claim to promote it, without being it. So within the second sentence of Facebook’s Principles we find a clear disconnect between what they say, and what they do.
“Achieving these principles should be constrained only by limitations of law, technology, and evolving social norms. We therefore establish these Principles as the foundation of the rights and responsibilities of those within the Facebook Service.”
This is also problematic. Facebook are able, in their own minds and in law, to claim they are a technology not a media company. This a vast disconnect from reality. They are clearly a media company that uses technology to make decisions regarding content distribution. Yet they claim no responsibility, in practice and in law, for that very content nor the impact it has in the real World. They refer to evolving social norms, without acknowledging their algorithms actually create evolving social norms, or at very least accelerate and influence the evolution of them.
one set of humanistic principles regarding connectivity, understanding, openness, and transparency. Fine media principles and values. However, the algorithmic system by which Facebook defines itself and by which it distributes content, this face has a different set of principles and values entirely. The algorithmic principles are to divide, categorise, and reinforce identity groups, for ever more targeted advertising. There is a tension and interplay between the opposing value systems within the core of Facebook and currently this duality sets Facebook on a direct course of unfortunate hypocrisy. It says one thing, and does another. It intends one thing, and creates the opposite. It’s even in denial that it’s a media company. Unsurprising then that it also has issues relating to truth. The remainder of their ten point principles reads like a press release mated with their terms of service. You’re welcome to try to extract substance from it. It ends in a One World Facebook.
Let’s put Facebook back on the couch.
I observe the PRINCIPLES, the underlying foundations of Facebook, are disconnected from its actions. My client, Mr Zuckerberg, wants one thing. His algorithmic machine wants another. This is why Facebook is starting to create consequences of a distorted nature. Facebook has a human set of principles and a technological set of principles. It’s internally conflicted. And like all internally conflicted beings, it expresses itself accordingly. Which means it expresses conflict, disconnect, and polarisation. The exact opposite of the greater understanding and connection it claims it wants to achieve as its first principle.
Which is a problem for everyone. Facebook is so massive, so influential, it’s determining who rules the World. And it’s getting bigger and more unbalanced every second of every day. And that’s only a part of the perfect storm.
Let’s have a look and try and find Twitters principles. Celebrity Jesus be with me.I Google. I can’t find any. I feel almost relieved.
The lack of even attempt to demonstrate founding principles says what it says. They don’t have any. Maybe they never thought about it. And by the time it came to put some in place, retrospectively, any reasonable principles would be so disconnected from their actual platform as to be laughable.
The truth is, Twitter was born free of principles, it was itself a pivot from another awed business idea. It organically grew, largely in the celebrity world renowned for artifice, gossip, and bitchiness, and never had chance to stop and consider its reason for being. It just is.
Principles lead to responsibility. Lack of principles allows lack of responsibility.
The platform itself has no principles, and therefore attracts and nurtures a culture of no principles within it. Clearly self- demonstrated. Twitter has a constant problem with being abusive. As a non-principled person would be.
To conclude in a simplistic social media friendly summary:
Facebook has conflicting principles and creates division and discord as a consequence, whilst struggling with issues relating to truth. Twitter has no principles and struggles with trying not to be abusive. Imagine if these two platforms together elected a President in their own likeness. They just did. And that’s not a coincidence.
Shall we shall look at how these two media companies, that claim not to be media companies, massive in their reach, ethically detached from human kind, amoralistic at vast scale, without human principles to guide them, are infecting all other media, and in doing so, shaping all humanity in a shadow of human qualities?
How New Media has disrupted the core principles of Old Media, and why this in turn is dividing humanity on an unprecedented and global scale.
What we have already experienced is a commercial disruption of old media by the new. The disruption is a consequence of technological innovation permitting total redesign of commercial model. In practice, an actual inversion. A 180 degree shift. Literally, half a revolution.
How has Old Media responded to this? By attempting to copy New Media revenue methodologies. But in doing so, they also install the principles of New Media. And the principles of New Media are at best conflicted, and otherwise largely absent. Which is why Old Media, the newspapers, the news, are starting to look… different.
Here’s what Social Media revenue models do to editorial tone and content.
Quantity based metrics are generated by response to articles. Response to articles, including the response of reading them at all, is generated by emotional provocation. Therefor the more provocative, the higher the measurable value of the article. Provoke emotions. Generate response. The fundamental principle of advertising. In digital, it’s click bait.
But now applied to the very core of mainstream media. Provoke emotions. Generate response. The more polarising the tone, the more people engage with it. They can strongly agree, or strongly disagree. It doesn’t matter. Social Media does it, we can do it. It’s all about data. Numbers. Metrics. And how to provoke humans into generating them. How to make them click.
Those are the commercial principles, and without humanistic principles to balance, moderate, and provide an ethical framework, there is a risk of Social Media and distorted Old Media dividing humanity at an ever increasing rate.
With all mass media acting divisively, one by algorithmic systems, the other by editorial ‘metric based decisions,’ we can expect a rise of divisive social outcomes.
Politically, we see it already. Brexit. A divisive process perfect for inflaming media, with an inevitable outcome. A series of more divisions.
The election of Donald Trump. Not because he’s right wing. Right and left have nothing to do with it. It’s about divisiveness. He’s more divisive. Therefore he fits the media infrastructure better. Therefore he gets more coverage. Therefore he wins.
Want to predict political outcomes? Look at how divisive the politician is. Not their policies. The actual politician. If it comes to a choice between A and B, as democratic process often does, the winner will be the most divisive. Why? Because the media tone, the media framework, both old and new, algorithmic and editorial, favours division.
It’s observable. And it’s going to create more and more divisive outcomes in the real World. And the real World loops back into the media, which further polarises, and feeds it back again, continuously amplifying the effect.
It’s important to fully accept that the media and society are a loop. Society is created by media. Media is created by society. Again, this is why social media is so effective, it immediately loops, whereas Old Media has a longer timescale on its loop. Social media works in seconds, Old Media is long form, shaping societies over months and years. Which is why it’s particularly troublesome to see Old Media and New Media aligned in divisive effect. A Twitter storm is nothing when it happens on Twitter. When mainstream newspapers and news companies pick it up, magnify it, and deliver it with force and authority, it has physical substance which gives it real outcomes.
It’s a perfect divisive storm. To be continued.
By Bird Lovegod