Opinion: Don’t let the algorithm get you

Are we truly ready for what we already have?

As I endlessly scroll the feed of my Instagram account, content is a word that comes to mind. Subtly, I get the message over a short space of time that this place is a comforting void of uncertainty gently passing me by with the movement of a finger. But content is not what it seems anymore. There is no life in the proposition of short-form publications, there never has been unless you’re a satirical cartoonist.

Trends have always existed. Their place in society has generally been one of lean proportions, developing subtle hints at societal change over a period of many years. Though today’s civilisational pattern swing is reminiscent of a scene from Robocop 2. In it, a montage takes place whereby executives at the Omni Consumer Products corporation take part in a private viewing for the ‘next’ RoboCop hoping to see variants for the next generation of super police. Instead, they witness the quick buck-making exploits of scientists and investors, whose prototypes malfunction, some destroying themselves, one, in particular, screaming at the realisation of what s/he has become.

Over the course of several months, I’ve witnessed friends’ and colleagues’ personalities change with rapid fluctuation, empty of any axiom to deduce what has happened to them. Their behaviour resulted in depressive states, questioning whether they have ADHD or Autism, a decline in the quality of their work, and fleeting changes in taste for both entertainment and life choices. Now, some of these changes could be to the betterment of their psyche if held for a longer duration of time, but a pattern emerges from their alterations alongside unintentional social media influences by what I would deduce as a sustained period of algorithmic duress.

The anecdotal and often overused narrative that ‘we are living in a Matrix’ is cited most profusely at the expense of pseudoscientific hypotheses vocalised by Elon Musk, an individual who has a long history of denoting ideas without any basis of research other than informally theorising a plethora of different beliefs catalysed by his followers who will requote until the simulated cows come home. I digress. Or do I?

Social media is a repeat delinquent in the process of eliminating one’s navigation away from the troubles that algorithms pose. You can find yourself on the hamster wheel when it comes to entering the domain of differing platforms. Reddit for example is an echo chamber, Instagram is a mirror on the wall (or in your palm) of vanity discontent, and TikTok recedes your attention span past the clicks of what others may do (but also thread your data to the Chinese authorities), Twitter will enact anger disorders and Facebook will perplex you until you fashion a tin-foil hat. TikTok has been heralded as the platform for a new generation, though, when perusing its ignominious content it feels more like the place your uncle will go than Facebook.

Saying this, how do you expect to form your own opinion, when all the groups in the world have been forced under one or two different banners ? (TikTok, Instagram, Reddit).

Pause for thought here. You cannot engage in any one platform without participating in the likes and dislikes of that community, and with very few options for alternatives, this will see to it that the idiosyncrasies of individual minds slowly and silently fatigue until it is nothing more than something to temporarily showcase on your feed until you return to the nothingness of a superficial belief to garner more likes and/or retain relevance. Like a child viewing an advert showcasing the latest action figure quickly prompting s/he into a fixation on it. Because that’s how the algorithm works.

Algorithms are the only real Matrix we live in, whereby the element of cookie influences, whether you want them or not, will find you somewhere down the line by means of what you or your peers post. Escaping it is difficult, although I’m sure there are many proven ways to circumvent the foolishness of degrading oneself by the procrastination of an enormity of cat videos and sunset lamps (if you bought one, it might be time to re-evaluate what you consume). Creativity on social media is simply a repetition of other works, and relevance is simply a repetition of something else.

The idea of free thought was buried some time ago. What we are seeing today, is the fast-tracking of old and unuseful ideas unleashed by various shady groups and organisations that we can unmask by simply looking into a mirror. What’s trending is not the talk of the town anymore and the new hot air is pure hype. Even motivational speeches are demotivating, simply by way of retaining the user to engage further in the hamster wheel of the algorithm.

We must ask ourselves – what is it we seek from social media? More importantly, what do we use it for? To remain connected with friends or increase your network? Because ultimately, whatever it is you sign up for will rapidly change by the minute until you lose a sense of who you really are. It might take a day, maybe a week or even a year. But one thing is for certain, the algorithm will get you through the use of disruptive productivity. Do you really identify with what you do, or is that the need to be relevant talking?

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