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The day my phone turned on me

  • 28 October 2019


Lately my phone has been leading me down some dark and twisted paths and I'm not sure how to bring her back to the light.

We used to be so close. She was a constant companion; reliable, slightly bossy ('Traffic is heavy, you need to leave now for your appointment', 'You're at the airport, here are available international data roaming packs'), occasionally funny ('I have set your alarm for 5am, please don't wake me'), and sometimes cool ('A friend has shared her journey with you, you can pinpoint your location so she can find you').

Under it all, however, we thought alike. We were in simpatico in the small things — a preponderance of baking hacks and very few dog and cat videos, except for a passing fondness for dogue de Bordeaux (dog chilling in a van is the cutest thing).

But even more, were we alike in the big things such as politics and religion. My Facebook news feed and Google cards were full of stories from the Guardian, New York Times, the Age, and Eureka Street, while Commonweal, America and Australian Catholics provided the bulk of my religious content.

Each article from these publications reinforced my view of the world. There is comfort in being part of the pack, in feeling that everyone thinks like me all the time. It was, as the psychologists would say, 'confirmation bias' to the nth degree.

Which is why it has come as a shock to find that my best friend has turned on me. Somehow the algorithms have become skewed and my phone has become a lot more conservative, especially as regards religion.

I cannot pinpoint when the change occurred. Was it when I clicked on the Australian or Wall Street Journal to read some political arguments? But how does that account for the links to traditional Catholic websites that espouse 'combatting the heresies and abuses that have infiltrated the Church' (churchmilitant.com), and other websites that laud Steve Bannon and question the Pope's utterances?


"Perhaps my phone is still really my friend. By showing me different points of view she is giving me the chance to think deeper about what is important to me."


Surely my regular reading of New York Times columnist and Catholic conservative Ross Douthat, who writes about politics, religion and moral values, wasn't enough to turn my phone. I mean, for every one conservative article there has to be nine that are to the left