Maybe I’m late to the party on this one. But still! My dear friend Devon recently shared this fascinating (terrifying?) article about how non-journalistic content providers are cornering valuable real estate on people’s Facebook newsfeeds with biased snippets about the election. He included a link on Facebook’s website, which the New York Times had also written a short feature about, where you can take a peek at the categories Facebook uses to determine which ads you see when you idly scroll. I already knew Facebook was collecting tons of data about me in order to somehow determine the extent of the echo chamber that is my news feed. But there is something delightfully and tantalizingly navel gaze-y about ogling this page anyway. What do they know about me? Are they right about me? What in the world could they mean by “pessimism”? Is that my outlook?The questions start verging on the existential: Am I somehow this random collection of categories? The algorithm might know more about me then some casual acquaintances! Though it also has some pretty important misconceptions and major oversights. Automobiles? Really?
After a few minutes of this, I wake myself up from from marveling at and fetishizing this technology. How important is it to me that these imperfect details are out there in the world, forming my digital profile and persona? Is this all they have? Where will this data go? How is it being used?
These are all questions I ponder, as I respond to Devon, and then continue idly scrolling away.