From the beginning, one of Facebook’s primary goals has reportedly been to bring people together. Putting families and strangers in contact to share ideas (and fill comment threads with arguments) is a driving factor behind the platform, but in order to keep its users safe and sane, certain limits have been applied when it comes to privacy. Users can mute their friends, block and report harassers, and even adjust the way their news feed works based on their opinions and beliefs.
An investor at this morning’s Facebook stockholder meeting brought this up as a concern, wondering if Facebook is creating what they called “echo chambers” of opinion. “This is something we care a great deal about,” replied Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who explained that Facebook is actually helping people break out of their “social bubbles” with the same timeline functionalities that were brought into question.
Sandberg went on with an analogy that might well have been scripted if she weren’t so well-known for her knack for public speaking. “When you think about the connections you make on Facebook, people think about strong ties and weak ties.” Those strong ties include family and close friends that you contact regularly.
“What Facebook does is let us hear from more people on a daily basis. What you might call your weaker ties: the people you went to school with, the people not in your current company but your last job, the people from your hometown … so what you get are just more abilities to keep in touch with more people, and over time, we believe, more diversity.” Sandberg also brought up the ability to contact and create ties with international users. “We’re measuring it and more people are connected to someone outside of their borders today than were a year ago, than were a year before that.” This all builds upon the company’s claim from this past February that it is responsible for connecting more people than any other platform in the world. “As we’re able to create more human connections,” said Sandberg, “we’re about to connect with more people, with more diverse choices.”