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Reviews |  How Facebook’s News Feed Changed the Internet


In the wee hours of September 5, 2006, before sunrise, Facebook, seeking to totally dominate the social media space, went from an interactive library of individual profiles to a fluid personalized space, organized by algorithms, which ‘he called News. Feed. And our relationship with the Internet and with each other has changed forever. Until then, the Internet was a shared landscape. The users were explorers who moved through space, organizing themselves into communities through profiles, blogs, chat rooms and message boards. This original framework was exemplified in spaces like GeoCities, where users could design totally unique web pages about what they were passionate about and intentionally connect with others who shared interests or obsessions. Although just like the physical world, the virtual landscape is constantly changing, these changes have been experienced by everyone together. We all saw and moved in the same geography. In the early morning hours of September 5, 2006, we were abruptly asked to take on a whole new role: to sit, sit and have the journey projected onto us in a roaring wave of digital consciousness that was at the same time a laboratory. monitor our choices in the flow in order to refine our future experiences. “So my first project on Facebook was the News Feed. It was a brilliant idea. We had launched News Feed in the middle of the night. We were partying by popping champagne bottles. We had no idea what to expect the next morning. The reaction was swift and furious. People overwhelmingly hated change. Dissent has rallied to a new Facebook group called Students against Facebook News Feed. It quickly grew to over 750,000 members in two days. “Now at this point a lot of people both internal and external wanted us to close the News Feed. But we didn’t. The news feed actually worked. In the midst of all this chaos and noise, we noticed something unusual. Even though everyone said they hated it, the engagement had doubled. There were more page views than before. And the harshest critics, the very people who said they hated Facebook, were able to spread the word and get organized through the News Feed. Now, partly because of their anger, users were already spending more time on Facebook. In response to the backlash, Mark Zuckerberg posted the following message. Quote: ‘Calm down. Breathe. We hear you. We have not removed any privacy options. This assurance from above misses what was really going on. What people were really reacting to was a deeper feeling and a lot more alienating. And it was a feeling we were all experiencing for the very first time. While before we all looked at the same thing sharing a common landscape, we woke up on September 5, 2006, each of us immersed in our own new dimension. We were suddenly alone floating in a space of obscure rules made up of our own perceived preferences. The content and experience are unique to each individual and also different each time you visit the site. On top of that, for the first time, there was no human individual curator or intervening in our immediate experience. When we were looking at the website at one point, we were now all alone with a strange, non-human intelligence controlling what we were seeing and also staring at each other in silence. The algorithms were now in control, sending us back to us in a way the average user wouldn’t be able to understand. The only ones who could figure out what was going on were the Facebook programmers locked in Silicon Valley. And even they wouldn’t have been able to look at your Facebook feed and tell you precisely why the algorithm showed you a particular image or post at that precise moment. It is important to remember that on that day in 2006, this experience was entirely new to almost everyone. Google then started testing personalized search results, but only for users with Google accounts, which most people weren’t at the time. The fully personalized and algorithmically tailored Facebook news feed experience was on a massive new scale. It was a disturbing and disorienting feeling, the foreshadowing of a new world. “Who here remembers Facebook before the news feed? It was a static home page. To find information, you basically went to one person’s profile, then another, then another. It was extremely inefficient. We knew we could do better. Facebook was obviously about people. It’s strange how easily Facebook rejects the old model of social media from before September 5, when the internet was a landscape of self-organized explorers and builders. Communities have most certainly prospered in this environment. But at the time, users felt empowered to self-organize in these communities. This, from Facebook’s point of view, was simply ineffective. We know the rest of the story. This change, which resulted in a huge increase in engagement and massive profits for Facebook, paved the way for a whole new ecosystem replicated everywhere else on the internet. Today our online interactions, our search results, our music, our shopping, our hiring practices are all mediated by the feedback loop of an increasingly powerful AI. The effect this has had on us personally is to acclimatize to a permanent disorientation, to a fluidity of place and position. When there is no fixed place to stand, when the landscape is different every moment for each person, then we the users are positioned to feel passive, still and distinct, islands in a roaring stream of data. The people leading these changes, the so-called disruptors, are profiting in a world of atomized consumers and lone workers, each of us nestled in our own personalized terrain, as opposed to actual communities cruising through a landscape. collective. It wasn’t an accident, and it wasn’t inevitable. It is an ideology. Meanwhile, Facebook itself now looks more like a graveyard every day, as the nomads it has created move elsewhere. The Students against Facebook News Feed Facebook group is still in place. You can visit it. For years, it’s been entirely populated by ad bots posted blindly on top of each other, a mystical sanctuary for the new internet’s first true Facebook community.



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