Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes
Alarm. Out of bed. Coffee/Tea.
Fire up your browser and check your usual “go to” sites and apps, maybe your email. It’s your daily routine. Have you heard it yet?
- Trump Russia Collusion
- Gun Control
- Black Lives Matter
- Climate Change
- Illegal Immigration
- Israeli Occupation
They are all just words and phrases. To the uninitiated (or a classification system), the content can be neatly placed into various contextual buckets and categories.
Yet they invoke a powerful, immediate, and visceral reaction. They are loaded terms that have been imbued with special meaning. You respond. You click on the article or link. You have to. We all have to. It’s that important.
Due to the pitch, humans aren’t supposed to hear dog whistles. Yet, every day we get online, we humans defy nature and actually hear these dog whistles—in most cases, without even knowing it.
For nearly everyone reading this, the words and phrases above create an automatic response, regardless of whether you are “believer”, an advocate, or a denier. How you respond tells the online world all they need to know about you. What you click on sets off an immediate flurry of artificial intelligence algorithms designed to serve up even more content that appeals to your bias—presenting more content designed just for someone with your tastes—clicking more stories and articles sends you further into the abyss of whatever preconceived notions or biases with which you awoke.
Savvy marketers, politicians, and publishers all capitalize on the public’s emotional response to these sorts of triggers. Their objectives vary. Inform readers/viewers? Possibly. Drive traffic and more clicks? Definitely. Raise money? Sometimes. Reinforce biases? Yes.
What’s an unsuspecting public to do?
Take back control over what’s within your realm of influence by changing your surfing habits and routines. For example, diversity your information sources, try new websites with alternative and even opposing viewpoints for at least a week. The latest changes to Google and Apple News have implemented features that curate the top articles and show these to everyone, regardless of how users have customized their daily news feeds. In a blog by Google, this was one of the main goals with the Google News redesign. If you’re looking for News alternatives, there are plenty of options—or simply add in sources that you wouldn’t typically consume.