If I see one more ‘this election is Facebook’s fault’ tweet, take or thinkpiece I might spontaneously combust. Could you any more miss the point?
Facebook is a tool for more efficiently deciding what content you see. The problem has never been how we look out on to the world, but what we choose to perceive. This was always the case, Facebook just makes it more visible. There are no excuses. No one walked into the voting booth and accidentally voted for Trump. Even his biggest supporters were aware of the litany of allegations. The debates were the most watched of all time. But people saw what they wanted to see and voted how they wanted to vote.
If we want to look at a media failure, it was in the primaries, it was early 2016. We created momentum around Trump almost by accident and he used it to mobilize. But the last few months have been filled with excellent well-publicized coverage. Trump voters knew who they were voting for because it was impossible not to.
So, if you want to point fingers for the state of the election, we can look to the media, the economics of journalism, the politicians, the advocates, the funders, the fundraisers and, more than all that, the people who voted. Looking there is where you’ll find understanding, motive, interest, fear, avarice, love and hate. That’s the story. Those things aren’t in an algorithm. They aren’t the functions that drive the engineering of social media.
Instead of continually trying to pass the blame to a robot, do useful reporting about the people who voted, the communities they are in, the way they think. This election is on us. Humans. We don’t get to put that on anyone else’s shoulders.
If this is a failure, we failed. If this is an opportunity to rise, we have to grasp it. If resistance is required we must provide it. If watchdogs are needed, we have to pay attention. If someone must speak then only we can do it. There is no Uber for a better humanity. Just us.