Opinion – Navigating algorithmic anxiety has become exhausting

“Even though it contains all the music I’ve ever wanted,” he wrote in a trial for Pitchfork“none of this is necessarily gratifying, emotional or personal”.

It’s not hard to imagine how independent creatives feel. While Instagram was once well known for helping businesses grow, it now deters users and jams our feeds with unpredictable content.

Not to mention that for creators to stand out amid the incessant spam, they have to resort to SEO maximization in a way that often feels non-transparent and further discourages us.

It’s hard enough trying to figure out what we Actually enjoy in the midst of all this algorithmic influence. Who wants to see blatant promotional material when it’s unclear whether our behaviors are self-determined? The sense of manipulation can be overwhelming.

“I’ve been on the internet for 10 years and I don’t know if I like what I like or what an algorithm wants me to like,” says a 23-year-old student, Valerie Pierre.

“All it really does is simplify my tastes, offer worse versions of things I like that have some superficial similarities.”

Yet the gravitational pull of major social networks is hard to overcome, which is why we keep finding ourselves mindlessly tapping Instagram despite the displeasure we’ve expressed with how it works.

And forgive me for being cynical, but it’s not like we can escape it anyway, given that social media is literally built to show us things we might have gravitated towards.

“Algorithms wouldn’t have the power they have without the floods of data we voluntarily produce on sites that exploit our identities and preferences for profit,” says Patricia de Vriesteacher-researcher at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

“When we talk about ‘the algorithm’, we are perhaps confusing recommender systems with online surveillance, monopolization and digital platforms taking over all of our free time – in other words, with the entire extractive technology industry of the twenty-first century.’

So until Instagram (and the many other culprits of following its lead) returns to its golden age by ceasing to produce the algorithm-focused updates that none of us asked for, I would say that we are right to be exhausted by the silent decision-maker which offers almost no possibility of communicating back.

About Sandra A. Powell

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