The Algorithms are Here

How to use the algorithms responsibly

technology, social media
August 5, 2022

I read an article on The Atlantic about Facebook chasing Tik Tok’s explosive growth by imitating the Tik Tok algorithm. It describes the difference between the social graph that Facebook has relied on and the media recommendation engine that Tik Tok uses.

Photo by Roman Martyniuk on Unsplash
Photo by Roman Martyniuk on Unsplash

It’s a fascinating read, but it’s led me to think more about algorithms, how I feel about them and what I can proactively do to rebel. I understand generally how each of these approaches work. I can’t help but remain skeptical about these algorithms in general.

Take for instance the algorithm underlying Google search. Search promises to intelligently surface the information you are looking for at the right time. These results have been under scrutiny for being ad-driven and user-hostile. The Atlantic published an article detailing this decline recently too.

I realize this is an "old man yells at cloud" rant. The algorithms are here to stay and so we can either use them with abandon, hide out in the dark like a Luddite (side note: this word has a very interesting etymology) or be intentional about how we adopt and use the technology.

Thus far, I've chosen to try and adopt some of these technologies in a responsible and thoughtful way. Some recent books have helped me to develop my own personal philosophy and approach. For example:

  • The Life We're Looking For - helped me to see that the biggest desire most of us have is to be seen and recognized. Social media offers this to some degree, so being intentional about building community outside of technology is important.
  • The Tech Wise Family - as a parent, this book helped me to think about what technology and the internet does to my kids brains and be proactive about helping them understand how to technology in a healthy way.
  • Stolen Focus - showed me how important "attention" is and that when we give our attention to something it holds power over us — this is exactly how social media and news feeds are designed to work, by stealing our focus.
© 2022 Ross Gebhart