Essays on Technology and Culture

Against The Algorithm And The Feed

Using Little Voices has given me something to think about, when it comes to social media. When we use Twitter and Facebook we are at the mercy of two different impositions. For Twitter, the imposition is the feed—the mostly chronological stream of content that we are fed by the service. On Facebook the stream is replaced by the imposition of the algorithm, which determines what you are supposed to see.

Tools like Little Voices, Nuzzel, and Social Fixer stand against these impositions. To varying degrees, they allow us to take control of our social feeds and bend them to show us what we want to see. Algorithms on social media in particular are not designed with the end user in mind. They are designed to optimize metrics that benefit the company and their advertisers. The more we post, like, favorite, retweet, and interact with the platform, the more data they get to use for monetization.

It’s why Twitter had to fracture their relationship with third-party developers. It’s why Facebook makes it harder and harder to access their chronological feed. Anything that goes against the feed and against the algorithm is dangerous to the bottom line. As long as we have control over our browsers and devices, in some form, we have the ability to interfere with these impositions.

In fact, it’s our duty as Internet citizens to use them and bend these services to our will. Communication technology is most valuable for its ability to build and strengthen social ties. It’s the exploitation of those ties that irks me. It doesn’t matter whether that exploitation comes at the hands of advertisers or harassers. By asserting control over our feeds that we maintain our identities online.