December 7, 2016 (Wednesday)

by Yule Heibel on December 6, 2017

Who are we writing for?

Someone I’m Facebook friends with got into another flamewar with one of his Facebook friends over politics. The FOAF-person who posted the original article which offended my Facebook friend then wrote (but sadly, deleted) in his defence of having posted an opinion perceived as controversial by my Facebook friend that he (the FOAF) posts a lot to Facebook to “confuse its algorithm.”

I find this shocking. So now we are “engaging” on social media (and writing, politicizing, and thinking) to outfox an algorithm?

Seriously, wtf?

How is this affecting us, changing our brains, if we’re now posting and writing (and therefore thinking) with an eye to the algorithm (versus persons)?

People: the algorithm can continue infinitely, it never tires. We do, however.

The algorithm can outfox us infinitely, too. We’ll never outfox it. If we “play” by its rules, we’re fucked, a priori. I was reminded also of earlier “advice,” which now in retrospect seems right in line with the algorithm critique I’m trying to articulate here, that we should always “like” our own posts since doing so would drive them up in the feeds of others. Again, a “hack” to outfox the algorithm. I still see my one of my Facebook friends doing this, slavishly, on every one of his posts. (A slave to the algorithm…)

Yesterday, when I saw my Facebook friend’s post (and stupidly didn’t screenshot it right away, nor the FOAF’s pre-edit responses), I also got, via email, one of Nir Eyal’s newsletters wherein he describes how, post-election, online news made him crazy, and what he did about it. Eyal points out that online news is “open,” which echoes what I’m saying about the infinite nature of the algorithm. It wants to keep you coming back again and again, so it never “closes” or finishes. In a high-tension environment, this can keep you clicking to “refresh” (but actually read the same things over and over) again and again and again, till you’re practically going bonkers. Eyal’s “cure” was to limit himself to actual, physical, printed newspapers for news. He wrote that the newspaper is curated, edited, and “finished,” sent out as a complete product. You read it, then fold it up, and put it away. You’re done.

You achieve completion. With the algorithm, I might add, there is no completion. It goes on forever.

What do want to be mentally? Completely torn apart, or at least semi-composed, completed? Restless, or at rest?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: