It determines your results when you use a search engine. It suggests friends and followers on social media. It recommends you videos, articles, and music. It has both destroyed and cultivated relationships. It is the reason for an inconsistent distribution of media and information. It filters, hides, promotes, invites, captivates…
Algorithms are pervasive.
People who use social media as a means to share their content, gain visibility, and develop careers are in a constant dance with The Algorithm.
We want to garner the favor of The Algorithm so it promotes our work. We speak of The Algorithm as the omnipresent absolute authority that determines if our content will be seen and who will see it. Different platforms have different Algorithms with varying preferences.
Certain Algorithms will promote, for example, content that highlights environmental conscientiousness. Others will prevent content that includes foul language from reaching positions of greater visibility.
Creators and media strategists speak of The Algorithm as a being that makes conscious decisions: “If we do not post several times a week, we may upset The Algorithm and compromise our progress.” Or, “I think The Algorithm does not like me as my content is disappearing without my consent or prior knowledge.”
There are countless articles and books about how The Algorithm is affecting us so I will not reiterate what is already out there. I recommend “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” a book by Yuval Noah Hariri, as he provides excellent and digestible commentary on our growing reliance on The Algorithm and how we may interact with It in the future.
Our routines have transformed as humans have lived and died over the years. We all know this.
I am concerned by the increasing rates of depression and anxiety among people who are alive today. In order to stop this issue from escalating, we need to address the root cause. We need to identify what is contributing to this ennui and how we can steer our lives into a more positive direction, and I think this starts with our habits and routines.
How many of us wake up in the morning to turn over and check our phones? How many of us wake up in the middle of the night, and unable to fall asleep, pick up our devices?
The people I know with these routines use Flipboard, Twitter, TikTok, and news apps. When they wake up in the morning and open one of the aforementioned apps, The Algorithm is determining how they will start their days. Studies suggest that our moods in the morning impact our productivity for the rest of the day.
If the first thing a person does when they wake up is to read something that evokes a negative emotion, that emotion can linger long after they get out of bed. Some say we are becoming desensitized to media given how much we consume. I think desensitization is part of it, but also that the effects of our consumption are now just part of our routines.
Imagine waking up everyday and reading an article fed to you by The Algorithm to attract your view. Its headline is provocative and you cannot resist it. Its contents are frustrating, so you reluctantly get out of bed to start your day, agitated.
Somebody may open up their Instagram explore page only to find The Algorithm is recommending an endless scroll of the most beautiful and stylish people surrounded by their gorgeous and glamorous friends. You, having just woken up, compare yourself to the manipulated images you see on your feed. Doubting yourself, you get up to begin your day.
The Algorithm has its merit. There are certain things we may not have found without It, things we appreciate.
I think it is important we acknowledge how the presence of The Algorithm and how it affects us daily. The Algorithm has the potential to hurt us just as much as it can help us. I think by recognizing that what we are seeing is not always a generic array of content but a carefully curated feed designed to seduce us, we can prevent The Algorithm from influencing how we feel and how we go through our days.
I am Dana, Co-Founder of Choice Forward & manager/assistant/strategist (among other things) to Garden Marcus. We are sharing kindness, patience, and positivity to empower individuals and strengthen communities. I love reflecting on my experience growing up in the digital age. My writing is just for fun :)