My Enemy the Algorithm.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media you know what “the Algorithm” is. Regardless of its actual definition, The Algorithm has become the go-to term we use for how social media sites determine what gets shown more frequently to strangers and those who follow us (or those we follow). It’s a system that can be played and manipulated if you know how to play it, or are willing, and I hate everything about it.
Playing the Algorithm’s game is pretty simple. You take steps to make your social media posts have more engagements… likes, retweets, shares, whatever… so the Algorithm thinks you have interesting content that other people will want to see, and thus takes steps to show other people your stuff.
From what I’ve seen, there are a few ways to play its game:
Slap your name on everything you see and share to make sure people associate YOU with the cool thing you found. You can’t retweet something without making sure your commentary about it shows up first, after all.
Ask random questions of your followers. People chiming in because they think you care about their answers (in all fairness, maybe you do!) will boost how “engaging” your post is. Hell, maybe it will go viral and others will retweet/share your question with their own commentary showing up first!
Shitpost. Whatever the hell comes out of your brain, no matter how random or silly or relating to anything you’re doing. Just put it on the internet. Go ahead. As long as you’re creating CONTENT for the Algorithm to analyze. (I confess I actually enjoy this when it’s done well.)
This game just feels wrong to me. It feels disingenuous, even when it’s coming from a sincere place for some people. It feels like I have to join a screaming crowd whose chorus is “LOOK AT ME FIRST!” and there’s something in my soul that recoils from that. The quality of your creativity and the worthiness of its viewership shouldn’t be determined by how well you can trick a computer program. Has “word of mouth” been replaced with “word of the Algorithm?” I hope not.
I understand this is how things work nowadays, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.