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Bias exists

So I admin a few groups on Facebook. We get new people applying every day to our co-op and the related subgroups. And our criteria are simple. People need to be local-ish to our area. They need to be actual people and not business puppet accounts (i.e. if the facebook name is “Rubbin Yerback” and all visible public posts are for the Rubbin Yerback Massage Therapy Studio, we’re probably going to send them a note asking them to join with a personal account. ) We need to have some sense that they are not shoe spammers. (These are accounts that will sit in any group they are in and autobot-post shoe advertisements for discount shoes.) And… no, that’s pretty much it. Local, not spammers, not business accounts (because usually business accounts join in order to advertise their businesses, and having a blanket policy just reduces headaches.) There are a couple automatic “ins”, including having friends in the group, mutual friends with me, or having a group member add them. But the automatic outs are business name, not local, and obvious spam account.

So, when you’ve been doing this for a couple years, you get a feel, just by looking at names and profile pics, as to which accounts are going to be “real” and which are not.

That’s bias. If I see a picture of a young Japanese woman, or a “supermodel-esque” professional shot of a young blonde woman, especially with name that doesn’t jibe with the picture, my first guess is going to be that this is a spammer. If I see a picture of a mom and a baby and a green background to the pic, I’m going to guess they’re probably local.

But I don’t make my decisions based on those things. I might say, “Bet it’s a spammer” and click through, and if they have my city as their home town and are NOT members of 200 groups and joined facebook yesterday, I’ll probably add them. A recent one was a very pretty picture of a girl with the name “Freckleton Molles.” The account was brand new and no visible friends… I ignored the request. If Freckleton wants to pm an administrator, we might reconsider (but given that the account was deleted a couple hours later, I’m guessing not.)

My point is we all have bias. It is natural for human brains to want to sort people and things and animals into categories. Predator. Not predator. Safe. Not safe.  Humans are amazing at pattern recognition… but we also tend to overcategorize. And when we have assigned categories, our default is to not look further. “I know this thing, I know where it goes, I know how to react, I no longer have to expend effort.”

We are deeply uncomfortable when things don’t fit our categories. And we often flat out don’t see unless it is pointed out when the categories are wrong.

But we MUST reexamine, and frequently, any categories we’ve made for people.

Lives depend on it.

Published in Uncategorized

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