It feels like Oz lately. Like someone is manning the controls and manipulating everything we see, do, and think. It’s like we are being forced to wear green glasses in order to see the city as emerald and not because we are living in the emerald city. To put it in 21st century terms, it’s like our outlook or opinion depends on an algorithm created by someone working for Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos, or Carole Baskin.
I noticed this a few years ago when I did a Google search.
After typing “how to get rid of cellulite without a good diet or rigorous exercise” my social media feed was filled with ads and information about plastic surgeons, gyms, and diet centers.
Once I clicked on a link that promised to show 15 actors that are unrecognizable now.
The first celebrity was Val Kilmer. My 21-year-old self was shocked to see my celebrity crush in such a state of unrecognizability.
My 45-year-old self was shocked that I wanted to read about Kilmer’s downfall into carbohydrates.
During a normal year, I barely have time to think about who controls what I see online. And by normal I mean a year-going by at breakneck speed spent chasing deadlines, children, and dreams while staying on top of bills, taxes and trying to get in enough exercise to cancel out the large bowl of Crunch Berries cereal I (sometimes) eat before bed.
So, back to Oz. I can see it more clearly now. I created a Facebook account in late 2008. At first, I did it to spy on my 19-year-old nephew who was a freshman in college. Like most 19-year-olds, he was an enigma. The joke was on me. He didn’t add me as a friend. Instead, he ignored my friend request. Ignored!
At most I would visit “my page” every six weeks or so. I started with 30 friends.
I became friends with people I have not seen or thought about since college.
It was fun.
As social media started to catch on, my time on the site was spent liking photos and my friend’s business pages, scanning photos to post, and posting random facts about our family.
I spent maybe 10 minutes every other day on the site.
Cut to 2020 and social media has become the biggest time-suck and most reliable source for misinformation not to mention the catalyst of strife among family and friends.
Yet here we are, sharing news stories about the pandemic, presidential candidates, the Tiger King, weight loss miracle drugs without so much as doing a quick fact check.
A simple Google search on a certain pandemic whistleblower may alert you that he or she may in fact be more motivated to create a buzz that would result in a financial windfall (selling a book) than inciting a public call to action.
As far as the Tiger King is concerned, it’s all true!
In a few short months 2020 will come to an end. The election will be in the rearview and we will be on the tail end of COVID-19 (GOD WILLING).
By then, we can get back to the things that really matter … like posting photos of cats and taking quizzes to find out what state you should live in.
Telling Tales is written by Wilson County’s Becky Andrews and Angel Kane. This column is Becky’s.