Be aware that the internet monetizes your opinions

The internet is first and foremost a business platform. Content (books, videos, articles) is now created only AFTER it can be verified that people are searching for it. “Monetization” drives a person or business to create content, making it available for free and receiving a payment for each view of an advertisement.

The battle for clicks/views directly influences how content creators operate by analyzing search keywords and trends. This method is perfect for entertainment and technical information. A validation process is built in — the more entertaining or more accurate, the more people click it.

My observation is that people are more frequently searching the internet for answers that are emotionally complex and/or opinion-based. As discussed prior, content will be produced specifically to address the search query. Content creators, vying for clicks, write articles or make videos, infer a searcher’s bias, and extrapolate a tailored biased answer.

Why is this an issue? Firstly, opinion content is a popularity contest. Second, and most importantly, is when we search specifically to validate our own opinions. While quite human, “confirmation bias” is also quite dangerous considering the speed at which it can happen online. Any opinion, regardless of morality or truth, can be validated in minutes through biased searching (especially on social media platforms), with reaffirmation over time through suggested content algorithms i.e., “recommended for you” or “others watched this also.”

Consider if I lean slightly one way in opinion and unintentionally use biased search terms then read monetized opinions that validate my own opinion, I will instantly be exposed to more monetized and extreme versions of the original opinion while finding more “people” who sympathize. Could this be partially to blame for our increasingly polarized culture?

Two comically exaggerated examples of search bias are: “Why dogs are the worst,” and “why dogs are the best.” Instead, one might type: “What are the pros and cons of dog ownership.” While monetized opinions may still make up the majority of the search results, an effort was made to remain objective.

My challenge to us all is to be aware of internet monetization and of our human need to validate our feelings and opinions. Honestly, do we need to involve profit-driven strangers into our opinion-forming or decision-making process? I think it best that we guard our opinions and form them with careful, objective consideration.

-- James Edens


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