Filtering for a better future

I subscribed to a Pinterest newsletter until it started regularly including content that I was not only not interested in, but found unwelcome. This happened despite specifically indicating what my interests were. Somehow I still ended up getting loads on “pinterests” featuring topless tattooed women on motorcycles. I mean, if you like that, great. But I don’t and Pinterest really, really thought I did.

I subscribed to a Medium daily digest and the first one I got was an unusually rich trove of interesting topics and info. This proved to be a fluke as it subsequent digests were nothing but self-referential articles about getting more people to read your posts on Medium mixed in with right-wing screeds or poorly-written and unoriginal stories. I’m perfectly fine with being unoriginal, provided the spin provided is interesting or well-constructed. Instead, I find articles where the rules of English have been tossed aside in favor of a weird quasi-informal tone that reads like something halfway between a Facebook post and a text message.

I unsubscribed to the Medium digest.

The Pocket digests still arrive every few days but I find I’m looking at the stories less, in part because some of the digests are thinly-disguised collections of links to support the inevitable “sponsored” story (which is really just an ad) and also because the political stories are almost uniformly depressing these days and much of the rest of the news is the same as well. It feels like hope has been crushed down in favor of the rich and stupid being allowed to shape our inevitably dismal future.

Mostly I wonder if it will ever be possible to filter this kind of stuff so it shows things I find genuinely interesting, while at the same time avoiding the creation of an echo chamber where I only get news or exposure to ideas I already accept. I keep at open mind and I’m always willing to listen (within reason). I imagine a world where I didn’t have a Facebook finger. The Facebook finger is represented by the ‘swipe down’ gesture used by my index finger as I go through the Facebook news feed, vainly hoping for something that isn’t a regurgitated meme, insipid “like and share of you agree” bit of inspiration or an allegedly cool thing/video someone (along with thousands of others) found.

But I don’t think it will ever be possible, at least not until the far future (if we as a species make it), so for now, the only way to filter is to do it manually and suffer the memes, the self-indulgent nonsense and the “you’ll find this interesting!” stuff that is actually the opposite of what you’re looking for.

Bleah. Time to read a book.

Leave a Comment