New York Times columnist Frank Bruni chimed in over the weekend to the on-going discussion regarding Facebook and its powerful capacity to deliver content based on our preferences, for better or worse.

The implications are significant, and not just for politics, where much of the discussion has centred. 

Marketers need to pay attention, too; his Jo Malone shower gel anecdote strikes a chord with anyone who has ever felt stalked online by a brand. 

Even so, concerns about the persuasive and corrosive effects of communications technologies are not exactly new.  TV, radio and even mass circulation newspapers drew enthusiasm and dismay in equal measure from those who saw their reach and penetration as either great social levellers or a massive Pandora's box.  Or both. 

For consumers, the lesson seems to be to pay attention. Just because information is easy, agreeable and never more than a click away doesn't automatically make it reliable or useful. And sometimes, whether in examining political proposals or considering household products, it's worth looking at things from an alternative perspective or source anyway.  Even if they don't pop up automatically. 

And for those of us in the media and marketing business, the suggestion may be to help people along occasionally - not just feed their algorithmic cravings.