I don’t pretend to know the mechanics of how most things work. I don’t know why nutmeg matters so much when making french toast, how rainbows are always perfect arcs, or even how Travis Scott has become a megastar when the best parts of his rap albums are when Travis Scott is not rapping. But I don’t need to know these things as long as they continue working the way I expect them to—which is an opinion I’m sure can be (rightly) interpreted as a self-indictment of a complete submersion in capitalism, but to quote John Rooney, “there are only murderers in this room.”
Still, this general edict doesn’t always stop me from attempting to learn why some unlearnable shit is happening, as I—and most other people who write and/or edit digital content for a living—continue to try (and fail) to understand how Facebook’s algorithms work. As anyone who relies on Facebook-related traffic knows—and that’s, well, everyone in this business—engagement there is a fickle motherfucker. Sometimes content will pop immediately; sometimes it just won’t. What’s frustrating is that there often doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between what’s seen, clicked on, and shared and what dies a lonely, unseen death.
As perplexing as this can be, it at least possesses the veneer of legitimacy. It doesn’t make complete sense, but it exists on the spectrum of anticipated behavior. What’s been happening to my feed for the past few weeks, however, doesn’t.
I can’t pinpoint when exactly it began, but the top of my news feed has recently been inundated with real-seeming stories from very obviously fake news sources. Whenever I browse Facebook or refresh my feed, they’re there, and they’re usually one of the top stories. And by “fake” I don’t mean “real, but shitty” sources like Breitbart or Fox, but the sort of shit that’ll give your laptop bedbugs if you click on it.
While this has been happening for a few weeks now, I was reluctant to ask anyone else if this had been their experience too. Because, well, I wondered if this occurred because of some of the, um, adult things I view on one of my non-work laptops, and perhaps the sketchy content Facebook showed me was in response to that. But this week I finally spoke to several friends about it, and each confirmed that the same thing was happening to them.
Is it a coincidence that this is happening a year before perhaps the most important presidential election of our lifetimes? Are we (black people) just getting primed (again) for more fake political news? I don’t know. But I don’t need to know how french toast works to know when it don’t taste right.
(Okay, I’m hungry now. So bye!)