In the first few thousand years of civilization’s existence, this evolved quickly to mean, “He who controls the flow of information controls the power.” And, for much of that time, that power resided in the ruling class, then the church, then the ruling class again and then, finally, the people, in the form of newspapers, journalists and writers.
But even that proved corruptible, and as multi-national conglomerates soon figured out how to align their voices into a handful of opposed and predictable opinions, the people cried out again for a voice.
Then, the Internet was born, providing not only a voice, but a network for distribution; a megaphone that could be heard across the planet.
And it was good. Sure, there were plenty of voices no one wanted to hear. All the hate mankind was capable of spewing was out there, roiling and boiling in plain sight for anyone who wanted to see. But that was better than before, because now, it could be seen, it could be fought and it could be educated out of prominence. As the Internet continued its growth, it evolved from a place of soapboxes and podiums into a true network; a web of connection where the free and unfettered exchange of ideas was not only the product—it was the engine driving it.
But now, we face another speed bump in our evolution.
Facebook’s promote-for-pay posts so far have turned out to be just that: a speed bump. It would be easy to wax hyperbolic about how evil it is for Facebook to start to charge money to ensure posts are seen in your network’s feed. The argument against is pretty simple: Leave that control in my hands. If I choose to “like” a product or fan page, then I want to hear what they have to say. It’s up to me to hide their posts if I’m no longer interested in hearing what they have to say.
Facebook’s counterargument is simple enough, too: We’re a free product for our users. Here’s a pretty democratic way to make sure your voice is heard. Money equals voice, right? I mean, it’s been that way in our government for years, right?
The impact has been more than significant. Since Facebook introduced the system, brand pages have reported seeing interactions drop 70 percent and more, according to Crain Chicago blogger Ann Dwyer.
Yet before we go too crazy, Facebook has also provided users a way from opting out of this latest tweak to its EdgeRank system. It’s a hidden opt-in process that ensures, at least for the time being, that you’ll see all of the posts from brand and fan pages you’ve liked. Check out http://bit.ly/FBpostviewer for a walk-through on how to do it, courtesy of Allfacebook.com.
Still, it’s up to you, the user, to take those steps, and the fallout rate on that will be high, so you can believe that unless Facebook makes an about-face on its policy, this speed bump will grow into a huge shift in the currents of the flow of information.
Unsurprisingly, and true to form, if you want to be heard, even in this information age…