Every time I log onto Facebook I get a little bit angry. Not because (or not just because) of the Britain First posts or the endless baby pictures or the sheer amount of passive-aggression. Because I’m being told the tiniest details about celebrities I’ve never heard of in a context I couldn’t care less about. Jennifer Lawrence stumbling on a red carpet; Carrie Underwood kissing her baby; Kim Kardashian paying a Philippino lady to tweezer pubic hairs out of her arse crack (I made one of those up).
They’re infuriating in their banality and appalling targeting – and despite everything that Facebook knows about me, it keeps pushing these things at me, like a dog hopefully dropping a frisbee at my feet.
Here’s my view on this, carefully researched over five minutes by Thinking About it For A Bit – it is not incompetence, it’s a clever form of concentrated evil. Here’s how and why:
You can get rid of these trending news stories by clicking on a little X that pops up when you mouseover. Facebook wants to know why you didn’t like it. I always select ‘I’m not interested in this’. Facebook says ‘righto, we won’t show you stuff like that in future’. Then it does. Again. And again. And again.
Jennifer Aniston blinks at a kitten in Cannes. Miley Cyrus shares picture of her dirty burger on Instagram. Kanye West wears underpants and leaves house.
There’s two ways of looking at this. Either Facebook’s algorithm is rubbish – something less marginally believable than Catfish And The Bottlemen’s enduring appeal – or there’s something else going on. That something else, in my view, is this:
Facebook is harvesting data on you every time you use it. When you’re logged into Facebook, even if the browser isn’t open, Facebook can see what you’re looking at. All those dirty little secrets – porn, dating websites, professional enemies and your filthy, out-of-control MailOnline habit. Every friend you make, every link you click, even Like and Share is being harvested. Because it wants to know what you like. The more Facebook knows this, the more stuff it can sell you – and the more of you it can sell to other people.
But knowing what you don’t like might be just as valuable – just as useful in building a profile of the stuff you won’t buy; perhaps building a demographic profile of you one dislike at a time. And that’s what you’re giving Facebook every time you hide one of these ridiculous stories it suspects you won’t like. Even by revealing your dislikes, you’re giving away a little bit of yourself.
My advice? Never click on anything you don’t have to. Be ad-blind. Ignore this rubbish. Because, more than likely, somewhere in a server farm there’s a your very own portrait in the attic – slowly being shaded in through the things you hate.