CAMPing Out in the News Feed
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my Facebook News Feed.
According to my News Feed there is an overwhelming amount of anti-gay rhetoric in the world—and some of it is just plain crazy!
The truth, of course, is that my News Feed is not an organic list of everything posted by my friends. We would all drown in that pool if that was the case. Every time we log into FB, our News Feed could potentially be filled with between 1,500 and 15,000 pieces of content, depending on the number of friends we have. Even the most die-hard Facebook fan couldn’t handle those numbers. To make our social experience a better one, Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what posts show up in our News Feed.
Mari Smith, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day, explains that the News Feed uses more than 100,000 weights to determine what we see. She gives some examples of weights on her website: “how many mutual friends like the person/ page/content, how often you interact with the person/page, when the post was published, when the last comment was made, what types of content you typically interact with: watch more videos and Facebook will show you more videos, like more links and Facebook will show you more links.”
In short, our actions determine what we see on Facebook. All those anti-gay posts I’m seeing, are there because I look at them—and so, apparently, do my friends. All I have to do is stop clicking on them, and they will fade away.
It’s not quite that simple, I’m sure, what with all those weights working overtime, but it does illustrate a theory of mine that we build our machines in our own likeness. Not literally, at least not in a visual sense, but in the way we think—and it’s only natural that our “thinking machines” are patterned on a human’s way of thinking.
In life we are drawn to that which interests us or loves us. For survival sake, we also keep up with that which threatens us—which is a good explanation for why we all read the anti-gay articles in our Facebook News Feed.
This whole subject brings to mind the question of how much conscious choice we put into “clicking on” the pieces and parts of our lives. I’m not talking about Facebook now, but the real people and situations that make up our everyday life. Countless times in the course of a day, we make small judgment calls about what and who we like or dislike. Our lives are shaped by those choices.
Throughout 2015, we are celebrating CAMP Rehoboth’s 25th Anniversary. We would not be doing that without a long series of conscious choices about what we believe works for our organization and for our community. We haven’t made those decisions in a vacuum. Believe me, like those 100,000 weights shaping our Facebook News Feed, we have a whole community providing input into what works and what doesn’t.
Looking back over the last 25 years there are many points where important decisions were made when members of our community came together to change the future course of CAMP Rehoboth. The first was a workshop that took place at the Strand nightclub in Rehoboth more than 25 years ago. The memory of that workshop with its participants spread out in break-out groups around the legendary dancefloor of that long gone club, is still vivid.
One of the big discussion points in the early organizational years of CAMP Rehoboth concerned the importance of our role in the community. Were we Act-up, in-your-face style activists, or “room for all” community builders?
There were also folks in those early discussions who believed that the expense and effort of publishing Letters from CAMP Rehoboth was not necessary. Without Letters, we would never have survived financially; without the communication tool Letters provided, we would never have been able to spread our message of love and inclusion. Even to this day, and in an age when print publications are suffering, Letters continues to provide information to the community—and brings in about a quarter of our budget.
Skipping ahead a few years to another workshop—this time in the basement hall of Epworth United Methodist Church on Baltimore Avenue (before it was Celebration Mall, Clear Space Theatre, or the Cellar Door Restaurant)—close to 50 community members came together as the CAMP Rehoboth Project Advisory Committee to give us feedback and to brainstorm some strategic plans for the future. Out of that workshop and the ones that followed it, came the commitment to finally expand CAMP Rehoboth into a full Community Center and the idea for the CAMP Rehoboth Women’s Project, which grew into the CAMP Rehoboth Women’s Conference, and finally into the Women’s FEST we know today.
The decision to build a Community Center eventually spawned the idea for the Founders’ Circle capital campaign. Members of the Founders’ Circle raised over a million dollars to help fund the purchase of property in downtown Rehoboth, and to aid in the renovation of 37 Baltimore Avenue and the new construction and courtyard attached to it. The Founders’ Circle is beautifully represented today in the award winning Founders’ Circle glass wall that has become the defining feature of the new CAMP Rehoboth Community Center building.
In 2005, approximately 70 CAMP Rehoboth leaders and members of the community gathered at the Atlantic Sands Hotel for a workshop session that was a part of our strategic planning process. Out of that workshop came the goals and actions that carried us through the first decade of the 21st century, and got us through the building of the new Center.
At every step of the process of building this organization, members of the community have been present and providing input, encouragement, support as volunteers and as financial contributors, and, yes, also with criticism—which can never be left out as a part of the decision making process of an organization.
We didn’t have Facebook for most of our CAMP Rehoboth years, but if we had, all these high points, all these decisions (and many more like them), would have been reflected in our News Feed.
As we begin this 25th summer for CAMP Rehoboth, it is with the sure knowledge that it could never have happened without vast community support. I’m also confident that without organizations like CAMP Rehoboth, we would not have made the kind of progress we are seeing today. I will also argue that because of that progress, our opponents are frightened—and that’s why they are becoming so vocal in my News Feed.
Have a great summer, and watch your News Feed for details about Sundance, our 25th Anniversary celebration, and all of our other CAMP Rehoboth activities and events.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Photos: News Feed and the CAMP Founders’ Circle glass wall.