9/01/2021
Show me who your friends (and likes and follows) are

"Show me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are."

Nobody really knows where that quote came from. I chanced upon a website that tried to answer the question: it went as far as suggesting it first appeared in Don Quixote, but Miguel de Cervantes himself apparently said the proverb was already a thing when he wrote the novel. So there's that.

I was thinking about that quote while going through my Facebook feed, mindlessly, as we all do. Or do we all? I certainly do, most of the time - I don't think I even pay attention to what's on my feed anymore, as they're really just the same old things. There are people selling me things. There are people showing off how rich they are, thanks to those Axie things. There are people keen to demonstrate that they care about the world by being constantly angry at the state of affairs. You get the idea.

There really isn't much reason to check social media these days - I myself have been posting less, mostly for work and for linking these things to whoever cares to read them - but considering how we've been stuck at home still, for the most part, to the point that even physical exercise has been limited to certain hours, well, the most I can do is get my thumb joints moving. I know. It's sad. Sometimes I wish I was like this one person I knew from college - I won't identify her in this instance, even if you've read about her a lot on this blog - who doesn't have a Facebook account, or pretty much any social media footprint, and is, I assume, happy. But then, perhaps it's also because she's upper class. But I digress.

This afternoon is different, though. Sure, I'm still browsing mindlessly. (I was going to take a nap, after all.) But I've been seeing these new Facebook pages advertising to me, and I couldn't have but pay attention to them, because I don't quite know what they're trying to say. Then I remembered: the elections are near, and somehow this is top of mind for our politicians despite the fact that everything has been utterly chaotic for the past year and a half. But I can't blame them. The narrative is there for the taking, after all. I can get you out of this shit. You don't even have to focus group the hell out of it. It's there.

We've had a better appreciation of just how social media has, and will continue to, impact our political discourse. Between the paid troll farms and the hyperpartisans who genuinely believe they're being objective, there's a lot more thought now that goes to being elected. (And a lot more money, too, not entirely coming from here.) Add to that how disrupted the media landscape has been in the past couple of years, between the ABS-CBN shutdown, the acceleration of online consumption and the death of the public gathering. It's even more likely that you won't be seeing the whole picture as you head to the polls. (Of course there's the question of whether the polls will even happen, ostensibly because of the pandemic.) The whole "let me read up on everyone before I vote" thing has just gotten much harder.

But I digress again. Kinda. As I said, there are new Facebook pages serving me ads. I'm assuming everyone is doing these campaigns now - and no, they're technically not "premature campaigning" because nobody has officially filed the paperwork to become a candidate - but thanks to the way these ads are served, you can be certain you're not getting everyone. They can target very specific audiences. Where are you from? What are your interests? What genres of music do you listen to? What do you post about? What topics do you usually give an angry face to? Where do you usually go when your phone is connected to LTE and your apps are allowed to track your every move? That's just your data. I think they also correlate this with the same data from your friends. There's a reason why you only tend to see posts from people who, more or less, think the same way as you. It's probably why my feeds are confused and tend to show me posts from fanatics of the current president and fanatics of the current vice president (who, again, is not the answer).

So, whose political ads did Facebook decide to show me?

Ping Lacson's.

Hashtag heneral ng bayan. Someone who's going to be decisive. He can provide order, they say, because he was a cop, and of course the subtext is that the current guy promised order and didn't exactly deliver, and, well, I don't feel like diving into all this, because I did say I just took a nap, right? All I wanted to say, really, is that I don't know how the gods from the server farms in Algorithma-Zuckerberg decided that a man with a reputation for being tough, but a little more towards the establishment, and whose reputation is still tarnished by accusations of police brutality, is the right guy for me.

To be fair, I have also seen a couple of campaign ads for Leni Robredo. Just two. I assume funds aren't there yet, and Ping's been incredibly aggressive, and besides, Leni doesn't want to look like she wants to be president. (Again, not the answer.) There's this weird push for Manny Pacquiao: after his loss in the boxing ring over the weekend, I saw at least two editorials subtly, quietly, coyly endorsing him for president, perhaps a tacit admission that we'll be stuck with a populist leader anyway, but it should be anyone but the current guy. And speaking of that guy, there are, of course, the daily press briefings, supposedly about how we're handling the pandemic, but have long since become another avenue for defending potentially corrupt government transactions through whataboutisms. (That's on top of the pre-recorded Talks to Myself.)

Damn it. I was supposed to be scrolling my social media feeds mindlessly. We really need to be allowed to exercise again. Although, arguably, me walking to the drugstore late in the afternoon is exercise... they can't ban that, right? Right?

And your responses...

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