By the admission of Facebook’s own VP of advertising, Rob Goldman, Russia’s goal of sowing division in America has been served “incredibly well” through its use of Facebook:
The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans. It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation.
— Rob Goldman (@robjective) February 17, 2018
Is Facebook’s success in enlisting two billion members a testament to Mark Zuckerberg’s genius in creating the social media platform, or does this tell us more about the frail condition of the human mind?
To a significant degree, our attention is hardwired to be grabbed. We need the capacity to respond to unexpected triggers in our immediate environment in ways that ensure our physical survival.
But in a world where dire threats are not so commonplace, we have acquired the attention of domesticated herd animals whose waking state is occupied by foraging. It is our willingness to passively be fed that attaches us to our feed.
We have succumbed to a form of slavery in which our slave masters need apply no shackles because we have largely lost a sense of agency.
The fact that Facebook could give Russia the attention of so many million Americas was a consequence of the willingness (largely unconscious) of each of these individuals to freely give away their attention.
Until each of us reclaims the power to direct our own attention, we will continue casting out an open invitation to be led astray.