UN Ambassador On How Your Facebook Feed Is Not Allowing You Make the World Better


U.S Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power spoke to graduating seniors at Yale last weekend.

In a very insightful talk peppered with instances from her many experiences and encounters both in her current capacity and former professional capacities, along with quotes from other influential minds over the years, she spoke to the graduating seniors about changing the world.

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Her class day address is one that is worth watching for anyone keen on making a difference, but for this article, we zero in on a chunk of her address where she highlighted one huge force which she says works against change; your Facebook feed.

facebook feed

She argues and convincingly at that, that by allowing us to tailor our information intake to our preferences and current opinions, our Facebook feed and social media as a whole blocks our ability to actively seek to understand others.

Here is a bit of the talk below;

This brings me to my second point: to really get close to an issue, you must seek out ways to see the world and its problems from a radically different perspective. This is hardly a new challenge.

For example, a previous Yale Class Day speaker lamented the fact that, “We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

That was John F. Kennedy, in 1962. But the problem has only gotten worse. From the Facebook and Twitter feeds we monitor, to the algorithms that determine the results of our Web searches based on our previous browsing history and location, our major sources of information are increasingly engineered to reflect back to us the world as we already see it.

They give us the comfort of our opinions without the discomfort of thought. So you have to find a way to break out of your echo chambers.

This is tougher than it sounds — especially when it comes the issues you care most about. But it’s in your interest to engage the people you disagree with, rather than shutting them out or shutting them up. Not only because it gives you a chance to challenge their views, and maybe even change them. But also because sometimes they might just be right.

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Powers is however not asking us to throw out social media or our Facebook feed altogether, she is making a case for using it inclusively. For us, allowing viewpoints that differ from our own, for engaging in open conversations that challenge both us and the person we are conversing with, for basically allowing ourselves to see from other people’s perspectives. In that way we will be better equipped to change the world.