Tweak the algorithm all you want. It will never be a worthy substitute for a good book, a healthy debate or an honest friendship. As long as we trust software to shape our interaction with the world, life will be a disappointing, chaotic, infinite scroll.
There is no software that can force commenters to engage in respectful debate. There is no app to eliminate the immense conflicts of interest and perverse incentives of pay-per-view advertising sales. There is no subroutine to stop news organizations from competing in a race to the editorial bottom, seduced by clickbait and lusting for attention at any cost.
The rush of traffic from Facebook has been beneficial for the publications’ bottom lines. However, that has been accompanied by an avalanche of meaningless and disorienting social feedback — a thoughtless like, a forgotten share — that has pushed even the best publications toward clickbait and sensationalism. According to the analytics, that’s what people like. The result is that writers and editors have far less leeway to focus on what they believe is valuable, because the ultimate arbiter of success and prestige is the fleeting gratification of a page view. More news, faster news and trendier news paved the road to victory.