We’ve all heard a version of this riddle:
A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies instantly, and the son is taken to the nearest hospital.
The doctor comes in and exclaims "I can't operate on this boy."
"Why not?" the nurse asks."Because he's my son," the doctor responds.
How is this possible?
While outdated (and blatantly sexist – but that’s for another post…), this riddle is all about assumptions. We all have them - but many of them are just wrong. What’s worse is that Google, Facebook and Twitter perpetuate these assumptions. The problem is, those algorithms look at you for one given moment in time and use things like tags, keywords and subjects to track what they believe you want. We’ve all been there when we are browsing for something online - let’s say a pair of shoes. Days, sometimes minutes later, that same pair of shoes will inevitably show up in your newsfeed on Facebook. But what if you already bought that pair of shoes? Or you ordered them and found them to be extremely uncomfortable. You don’t want to ever see those shoes again! Yet it takes Google and Facebook a while to catch up before you stop seeing those shoes.
We’ve talked before on this blog about how we are not just one “thing.” But the news media and social platforms don’t understand how to deal with those complexities of multifaceted individuals. In fact, people have found ways to feed off of that rigidity and polarize us even further (hello Fake News Phenomenon!!).
We are many different things at the same time. Take me for example. I’m an entrepreneur, husband, step father, son, coffee drinker, Beyonce’ lover and a fan of murder mysteries. There is no one “place” for me to go that satisfies all of my “selves.”
We are fluid individuals and the construct of social media today does not embrace that fluidity. Today’s social media isn’t dynamic enough. It’s too reactionary and backward facing (cookies anyone?). Sure you can tell a lot from a person through their web history, but what about the content that is yet to be discovered? How do we create a system that can tell as much about the content that you WILL want than what you have wanted in the past?