Tag Archives: Confirmation Bias

Facebook Advertising Sucks: Avoiding the Echo Chambers

I’ve recently been experimenting with Facebook advertising and this blog. I’ve known consciously for a long time that any endeavour is successful in a large part by how you sell yourself: you can’t just have a really good blog or business or whatever and expect that word of mouth can carry you to success. You could have the best damn widget ever and no one will ever buy it if they don’t know about it. There is a lot of hard work and shamelessly selling yourself on the road to success.  I say I’ve known this consciously because while I’ve known it, I didn’t really believe it at a really deep level. Anyways, while I want this blog to be successful, I don’t really intend for it to be an actual business. I figure if I get a bunch of readers I could sell T-shirts or something, mostly so people can rock my sister’s logo design, but it isn’t a get-rich-quick sort of scheme. It would be cool to get more readers, and see if that whole “selling yourself” idea works, and it would be an interesting experiment if I ever did try to start a business. So that was my motivation behind advertising, to see how effective it really is and to learn from it.

So I advertised (“boosted” in Facebook parlance) a few of my posts. The first one I advertised was the post about writing and typing; it was a fairly tame post that I figured people might find enjoyable. If you clicked the link you can see that it did get quite a bit of shares, more so than most other posts (33! Shit! I didn’t know it did that good!).  Anyways, advertising on Facebook is cheap, easy, and does seem to get your message out to people. It also allows you to pick your audience by selecting interests that you want to target for your audience. Obviously for that post I selected people who liked reading, writing, and blogging. You want to advertise to people who the message will resonate with, obviously. More on that shortly…

For advertising my second post I wanted to go right for that juicy market that is Donald Trump hatred, and selected my scathing but fun post on covfefe. (And got 55 Facebook shares?!) It wasn’t so much trying to get those sort of readers, just that my first advertised post was fairly tame, and I wanted to get in on the mess of politics. When it came time to pick my audience it was obvious to select those who identify as liberal and who possibly lean towards liberal views. Duh. Like I said before, you want to target people who your message will resonate with. But this seems really cheap and easy, so I also targeted those who were very conservative and who leaned conservative. In a recent post about Echo Chambers (which I learned from advertising the covfefe post), I railed against people reading shit that agrees with their views. To me, what’s the point of advertising an obviously liberal point of view to people who lean liberal? I’d just be contributing to the “echo chamber” problem so why not advertise to the conservatives? So that’s what I did…

And it was kind of a mess.

First off, it finally clicked in my head that I had just spent $25 to target conservatives with a very anti-Trump post, and if you care to check this blog’s Facebook page, some people weren’t happy at all about it. Curiously, a bunch of liberals “liked” the post, but few conservatives shit on it, so I’m assuming many of the people angered by it just ignored it. Still, that isn’t as bad as shitting all over the page like some people did and could’ve, but it’s still wasted money by going absolutely nowhere. Advertising on Facebook Sucks because you pay to target an audience, so you’d naturally pick those who agree with you. No one in their right mind would pay to target those who hate their ideas and views. Imagine if Shell or Mobil gas tried to target electric car owners? Or if Tyson Foods advertised towards vegans and vegetarians:iIt’d be a waste of money.

Secondly, I don’t think this would get any sort of conversation going at all. Not a single conservative voter will read my blog posts and go “Hmm. He has a point. Trump is bad, what was I thinking?” The political posts I write are some vulgar, simple, and easy hit pieces on Trump and the Right, mostly because they make such obvious and easy targets on a page called Everything Sucks. While I don’t want my blog to only appeal and to target liberal-minded voters, trying to actually get a conversation going (while simultaneously shitting on Trump) on Facebook seems pretty stupid and futile. I mean if a newspaper as prestigious as the New York Times (“the failing @NYTimes”) can be labeled “Fake News” and shit on by Trump supporters, why would Everything Sucks and Facebook Advertising change anyone’s mind? It won’t…and I’d be dumb as hell to think it would.

So, in short, Facebook advertising is pretty cool if you just want to shamelessly support a page, company, blog, or whatever. It does work and is fantastic at getting your product (or whatever) out in the world for people to notice and perhaps utilize. This puts the success of your whatever on it’s quality and not if people have heard about it or not. My two blog posts got tons of views and shares after I advertised them, but in terms of trying to advertise to those who disagree? Hell no, because no one wants to spend money to reach people who will hate their message. Even if I’m trying to be inclusive and not contribute to creating my very own echo chamber, Facebook advertising sort of encourages advertising to people who will be supportive of your message. Facebook makes it so you can target an audience who will like your message, but this ease in getting positive feedback discourages any willful targeting of a dissenting audience, further contributing to people hearing what they want to hear. Facebook Advertising Sucks in getting a conversation going and further contributes to the problem of people having Echo Chambers where they can hear facts and opinions that already support their own opinions.

Echo Chambers Suck

As a liberal-leaning person, I get really pissed off when my obvious conservative friends and acquaintances share news stories from Fox News. These stories are obviously biased (“But only because the mainstream media is left-biased!”) and I don’t understand why anyone would ever be proud of getting their news from such a biased source. But Fox News isn’t even that bad compared to Breitbart or some of the other really questionable news sources out there. I’m talking the American News sites out there. Everything on these sites are so perfectly geared to target the conservative mindset it’s almost unbelievable. I don’t get how people can read shit that just confirms everything they believe and not be any bit suspicious of it.

I used the conservative news outlets as an example because they are most obvious to me as a left-leaning person. But the thing is that the left has it’s own bullshit websites and it’s own news (or even “news”) networks that conjure up the same hate and nonsense that the right has. It isn’t as visible (to me at least) but it’s there and it’s equally pathetic.

For the equivalent of Fox News you have MSNBC. While Fox has shit to prop up the conservative agenda and try to make Trump out to be a masterful genius, MSNBC does the exact same thing in the opposite direction by demonizing him. Everything is how terrible Trump is, how he’s destroying America, how he’s moments away from being impeached, and while the stories do present facts, the speculation and “meaning” of those facts is used to paint Trump is a highly negative view. How about Huffington Post? Nope. I’ve read enough stories from there to know that it’s going to be feel-good liberal propaganda to get me and other like-minded people riled up about Trump. I don’t know how Mother Jones compares to American News, but they seem to be nearly equal and opposites of the same idea: fear mongering to appeal to a single side. Democracy Now! seems even worse though, go check it out.

I really think part of the problem with our current state of sensationalized, polarized politics is due to this sort of one-sided news reporting, where facts take second stage to the speculation behind a story. Facts are pretty damn tame stuff that sound boring. Do an experiment for yourself: go to the BBC News website and then go to either American News, Mother Jones, or Democracy Now! and check out how “important and scary” the headlines sound; how scary is the world we live in? The BBC reports some boring facts: Trump got his travel ban knocked down (again), there was an earthquake in Greenland, and…whatever. The Huffington Post declares that “TRUMP SLIPS ON BAN APPEAL.” Same news story with the same facts but different presentation in the headline. American News pronounces on a video that “Anti Sharia Law Rallies Erupt in Major Cities Across the Country – Chaos Ensues [LOOK]” Wow. Holy shit! Apparently people are trying to push Sharia law in the US and there’s basically a WAR going on over how crazy this is? Apparently the BBC doesn’t give two shits about it, probably because it’s sensationalized bullshit that a cheap conservative news website shoveled out to rally their base. HuffPost also mentions that a congressman unveiled an impeachment draft against Trump, which is curiously absent from the front page of the other two websites, almost as if it’s sensationalized bullshit that a cheap liberal news website shoveled out to rally their base. Democracy Now! has a damn category at the top called “Impeachment.” Protip: Trump isn’t immediately on the verge of being impeached (He’s going to be impeached — I’ll bet money on it — but it doesn’t require a headline yet.). CNN, just for shits and giggles declares that “Dennis Rodman heading to North Korea.” CNN has good bigly news people…[Like everything else, I wrote this shit yesterday so the headlines changed; you won’t see the headlines I mentioned. I can’t keep up with this shit.]

I’m not saying the BBC are infallible journalists or whatever, they just seem to present dry facts with minimal bullshit that these other examples present. My point here is that if you are a conservative and only read/watch conservative news, aren’t you just being spoonfed a bunch of shit that you already know and that makes you feel comfortable in your worldview? The same goes for a liberal person as well: if you already know for a fact that Trump is the devil himself, why do you need to read a bunch of shit confirming it? Whenever I see a link shared on Facebook from HuffPost or Democracy Now! I never click it because I know it’s going to be shit. Same when I see a Fox News or American News or Liberty-Whatever-The-Fuck-News from someone proclaiming “They’re going to take our guns!” It’s confirmation bias in a near textbook form — no one wants to possibly accept a different worldview so we close our minds off from the possibility while simultaneously thinking we’re being open to new facts but not really.

It doesn’t all involve simple news websites and channels as well: it also applies to social media. I think I’ll write more about this later, but we all have our favor sites to visit and people to interact with. Do these influence our worldview in a negative way? Do they tell us happy things we already know? Do they scare us into sticking with our current beliefs? I frequent Reddit, and I’ll use it as an example. Check out the World News subreddit. It leans left and if you look at any posts about Donald Trump it will have tons of hate. It’s fun to read too. Now check out The_Donald. It speaks for itself. They’re Echo Chambers: places to hear the same confirming facts over and over again.

So, obviously, that all Sucks. There are facts – indisputable facts – but the interpretation of those facts is down to whoever you seem to ask. If all you read are these borderline news websites that just regurgitate your worldview you aren’t learning anything and aren’t doing anything to solve the problem. We all have our Echo Chambers that solidify our worldviews and this does nobody any favors. This applies to both political outlooks conservative and liberal alike, so don’t think you’re up on a high horse when everyone else is stupid. It goes without saying that this lack of mixing ideas and compromising Sucks and has a large part to play in how polarized our current state of politics is.