Phil Friedman

7 years ago · 5 min. reading time · ~10 ·

Phil blog
In Defense of Self-Determination

In Defense of Self-Determination

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This is a rant in defense of self-determination, and against the kind of mind control that many social media moguls are seeking to exert upon their memberships.

I am damned tired of being pushed around, and so should you be. And I just won't take it anymore, and neither should you...

So I am telling all social media moguls to take their vaunted algorithms and put them where the sun never shines.

The final straw was laid upon the camel's back when I recently received an unsolicited solicitation to join a "professional" network whose main self-recommendation was it used an " advanced matching algorithm " that would help me discover "real business opportunities" happening all around me.

The notice said, "You have been invited by [one of my LinkedIn connections] become a part of the [redacted] network. Join over 13 million professionals from over 200 countries who have been referred to the [redacted] business network. Sit back and let [redacted] find your next job, sales lead, business partner, and more..."

I am not exactly sure what the "more" means, but whatever it purports to be, I bet it's still one more pile of bull chips.

I prefer to be the captain of my own destiny, the architect of my own future, the decider of my own fate...

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Fact is virtually all, if not all such claims are unadulterated poppycock. Witness, for example, the multiplicity of internet-based employment search firms who claim — and the operative word here is "claim" — to employ "advanced algorithmic matching".

Now, I am not personally in the market for employment. I am, however, a marine industry consultant. And through the years, I've found it useful in generating leads to keep an eye out for small to medium sized businesses in the industry, who are looking to fill certain kinds of needs that might be more advantageously performed on an out-sourced basis. Consequently, I have remained signed up with a variety of web-based recruiting firms.

What I've concluded from such activity is that, if there is a firm which actually uses an "advanced matching algorithm", I have yet to find it. Without variance, the notices I receive from such firms are clearly the result of little more than a crude keyword search engine. Mention the term "engineering" in your resume or online profile, and receive notices about jobs in every form of engineering from genetic to nuclear. Mention "marine industry", and you will receive military-related job notices — occasionally even a notice for mercenaries.

Of course, it's not just job-search firms who over-represent the power of their sacred-cow algorithms. All manner of social media platforms do as well, from internet dating and matchmaking sites to smart shopping sites, right down to Facebook and LinkedIn (who are, perhaps, the most active propagandists on behalf of algorithmic intelligence). 

Not only do all of these bull chip artists over-represent the accuracy of their algorithms, they exhibit an almost religious devotion to algorithmic control.

And as with all religious fanatics, the proponents of, and apologists for such control do not book any evidence or argument to the contrary.

Yet, they stand ever ready to manipulate the very algorithms they point to as objective standards of affinities and popularity, all in a paroxysm of self-fulfilling prediction.

Algorithmic control of social media networks is worse than any nightmare George Orwell could have concocted...

The proponents of algorithmic control set networking on its head by deciding they know better than you do what you are thinking, better than you do what you like and want, and better than you do what you should be reading and viewing.

LinkedIn, for instance, now openly proclaims that — notwithstanding your explicit elections as to whom you want to be connected to, and as to which authors you specifically want to follow — its demigod-like algorithm can discern your true intentions better than you can, by analyzing who and who are not your "strong connections". And then, acts on the purportedly "factual" data adduced by its algorithm to decide what you will see and what you won't. Never mind your explicit settings and personal elections... and never mind the obvious instances of egregious errors that we see the system making minute to minute, hour to hour, and day to day.

If we don't draw a line in the sand with respect to algorithmic thought control, we will end up like the Eloi of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine ...

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So, how do you resist? How do you re-assert your right to self-determination?

First, never accept that someone else — Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform — knows your wishes and intentions better than you do. Make the effort to stay in control of your social media experience by actively controlling and paying attention to your preference settings and controls. And to what is happening in your "news feed".

Second, take active steps to strengthen and maintain the connections you've created and which are valuable to you in your estimation. And moreover, take a couple of minutes each time you sign onto a social media platform to unsubscribe, hide, or block content that you don't want to see.

Third, take a few minutes weekly to like and share with your network of connections the content  you judge to be of merit — whether you do so on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media platforms.

Last, but not least, join with me in telling the progenitors of social media mind control to,

Take your algorithm and shove it!

Postscript:  A version of this article was previously published on LinkedIn and Medium. I've elected to re-post it here because beBee represents an approach to networking that is in distinct contrast to what we see on most social media platforms. beBee employs what founders Javier Camara Rica and Juan Imaz call "affinity networking"  a system in which members decide who they want to follow and what they want to see, facilitated further by by subscribing to interest-specific "hives" or groups. Theoretically not so different in structure from, say, LinkedIn or Facebook.

However, beBee's operating procedures are hugely different, in that Rica and Imaz have pledged, and continue to confirm publicly that beBee will never over-ride or otherwise interfere with the flow of content between members and writers and their followers, or within hives. At beBee, what you ask for is what you get. Pure and simple. And to my mind, that difference makes all the difference in the world.

Author's notes:  I don't write a lot about social media, except for the occasional piece about the failings of some of the platforms, and the occasional article on the psycho-sociological issues surrounding the presence of social media in contemporary society. If you found this post of interest, you may want to look at some of my other pieces on social media:

"Arrogant Control Is Not Leadership on Social Media, or Anywhere Else"

"View Counts on Pulse Posts Headed to Oblivion"

If you'd  like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other LinkedIn articles — whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to my original post.

About me, Phil Friedman:  With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. And in a previous life, I taught logic and philosophy at university.

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The (optional-to-read) pitch: As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve the clarity of their thought, master the logic of discussion, and strengthen their ability to deal confidently with disagreement.

To schedule an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult email:

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Phil Friedman

7 years ago #17

Dean Owen - The nominal claim is that your post is distributed into the feed of your connections, but may not be seen as it is pushed down by other posts, if the connections is not online at the time or close to it. However, the reality diverges significantly from that claim more than 85% of the time, as explained in print by LI systems engineering manager Byron Ma. In fact, the Algorithm throttles down distribution based on ITS assessment of who are "strong" connections, and so distribute your posts to the feeds of less that 15% of your connections. LI rationalizes this choking down on the basis that members complain of their feeds being too jammed by posts from connections. The irony of this is that, if the purported complaints are real to any significant level (which I question), the people complaining are those who connect willy nilly or who want to connect so that they can send you solicitations and sales pitches, not receive anything from you. Thus, LI distribution protocols are being driven by the preferences of spammers. LI also claims it distributes your posts 100% to your followers, but repeated careful observation by indie writers brings that claim into serious question, as well. Which is why, as you point out, many indie writers have moved their base of operations over to beBee, where distribution to self-designated "followers" is 100%, 100% of the time. I have suggested that all social media platforms, including LI, adopt this structure for interactions among members: Cheers!
LinkedIn distribute your posts to only 8-15% of your followers, based on its algorithm. This will never happen on beBee. You will always reach 100% of your followers. Why ? Because we think that they will stop following you if you send spam or poor content or irrelevant content. I think it is the right way. We will never limit it.

Dean Owen

7 years ago #15

LinkedIn is an odd beast and we can only guess at their motives. I suspect they assume there is more money to be made from recruitment and sponsored ads and thus are restricting peoples ability to market freely their products. But if I understand correctly, your post does appear on everyone of your connections timeline, and obviously they will miss it if they are not on at the right time. But the decision to throttle notifications was due to complaints of too many notifications. Notifications also have a short lifespan don't they? So they disappear if you don't open them. It does seem they have increased the emailed newsletter frequency. A balancing act they are getting wrong yes, but that's why we are here!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #14

Dean Owen - what I can and can't see and read is mind control. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #13

Dean Owen, I understand your point. But if Netflix makes suggestions to me based on what it perceives my preferences to be, that is one thing. Because if I am not satisfied with the suggestions, I can opt to access the rest of the database. But if, for example, LinkedIn chooses to distribute my posts to only 15% of my followers, based on its algorithm which decides that the 85% remaining don't really want to see them, that is another matter. Unless, of course, you know of a switch in my settings to prevent that algorithmic filtering from occurring on my incoming notifications. ??? Control of what I can see and can see is minds

Dean Owen

7 years ago #12

I get you Phil Friedman, but recruitment, retail, social media, the discussion is the same. It is about having relevant candidates, products, content there on your screen when you log on. Certainly the whole database is still available for you to search. If I had purchased a couple of gangster movies on Flixster, and the next time I visit the site, on the front page there is the latest gangster movie, great! Doesn't stop me from also hitting other tabs and seeing what is on offer. Likewise if I have hidden some articles on Facebook, and the Facebook also decides to show me less of those type articles and more of the type I have liked, great! It is not a perfect system, but it will get better and better. We are time strapped. Algorithms offer us the option of a clutter free experience. Good discussion!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #11

Dean Owen, thank you for reading and commenting, and for the kind words. With all due respect, however, I have to point out that the use of an algorithm by a marketer or advertiser to tailor what is offered to you based on your expressed interests is not what I am talking about. Nor am I referring to the use of an algorithm by a firm such as Home Depot to show you what is in stock in a local warehouse store near you. Consider, instead how you would feel is Google used an algorithm to decide to show you only some results of your search, not by relevance, but selected by how its judgement of your intellectual ability to understand the items. Or what if a firm like Flixster decided that it knew better what movies you would like, and so failed to show you all the movies at theaters in your area, but only those it deemed appropriate for you, never mind the search parameters you entered. The difference is between serving your expressed preferences and over-riding them based on an algorithm that, in the final analysis, is only a dumb sorting tree based on a two-value (binary) logic, which is completely inadequate to capturing the nuances of Human Intelligence and selection which operate in a multi-value logic. Cheers!

Dean Owen

7 years ago #10

Granted perhaps that the technology is not up to speed, but I am not so cynical of algorithms in our lives. Imagine that you could visit an online department store that displays products tailored according to your tastes, your size, your colour preferences. At some stage, the technology will be advanced enough to optimise our online experience by showing us content that is hugely relevant. For example, I have absolutely no interest in being marketed health and fitness products or French cars or brown clothes, or a cool pair of shoes but without my size in stock. I am sure our online experience right now is better than if Google or Facebook didn't employ algorithms.Yes sometimes they get it wrong. But at least the banner ads we see are sometimes relevant. Not a fan of current ATS, but eventually systems will be able to deduce that someone was a marine and is looking for military related jobs, and not jobs tagging sea turtles. Great article as always Phil Friedman

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #9

Javier C\u00e1mara Rica.

Wayne Yoshida

7 years ago #8

Thanks for the thought piece Phil Friedman. It is a great reminder for all of us to keep control over our own "personal branding" - because if we do not, someone else will control it for us!

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #7

Independence is "expensive" entertainment.

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #6

Phil Friedman, Now you know, among other things, why I call you my friend. You're a brave social man.

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #5

The reason is that they are part of "influencer" marketing.

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #4

The same applies to "influencer" marketing. This "ingenious" fiction will destroy social networks.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #3

Yes, Milos Djukic, it boggles my mind that so many who speak about the :liberating" aspects of social media -- the worldwide exchange of ideas and information -- are for the most part the same people who do not even raise an eyebrow over algorithmic control of what they see and read on social media. Thank you for reading and commenting. Cheers!

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #2

Dear Phil Friedman, You know my attitude about algorithm in any type of social media. Writing and publishing in social networks is more like transparent teaching and completely free mutual shaping of perception (without algorithmic control), rather than highly selective promotion, self-promotion, manipulation with exposure, influencer marketing or activism of an artificial, selective, highly manipulative and dehumanized algorithm. The algorithm control will be remembered as a dark age of social media.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #1

For the record, beBee is, to my mind, blazing a different trail than most social media plarforms. Witness the commitment from founders Javier C\u00e1mara Rica that beBee will never over-ride the wishes of its members as to what they want to see from those members and writers whom they follow, that beBee will deliver 100% of the content from writers to their respective followers 100% of the time.

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