It’s Time To Break Free From the Algorithm-Driven Life

Tim Challies | 4/17/2019 | Staff
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A recent story from Wired helpfully explains the latest batch of changes Facebook has made to its algorithm—the algorithm that sorts through the billions of available articles, photographs, and videos to determine the few we will actually see as we scroll our news feeds. This is just their latest attempt to head off the never-ending stream of content that is illegal, abusive, or otherwise inappropriate, and to deliver content that is safe, inoffensive, and within the bounds of their “community standards.” Experts believe these algorithmic changes will substantially change our Facebook experience by changing the kind of content we will see there. In that way, it provides the opportunity to consider what it means to have so much information delivered to us algorithmically, and to ask whether we are really comfortable with this fact of online living. I’m going to suggest it’s time we begin to take steps to break free.

Before we go any farther, we need to consider the fact that what we see on Facebook—and Twitter and Instagram and Google News and Apple News and … —is determined by algorithms, formulas carefully coded to spread some content and to suppress others. We rarely have access to complete collections of information anymore. Rather, algorithms pre-sort it for us. This is necessary because of the sheer quantity of content being produced today, and also because of the ugly qualities of so much of it.

Day - Millions - Individuals - Organizations - Tens

Here’s how it works. Every day millions of individuals and organizations create tens of millions of pieces of content. From news giants like the New York Times who churn out hundreds of articles every day, to hobby photographers who share occasional photographs, to bloggers who write their listicles, to whoever it is that creates all those memes—all of these content creators feed their material into a very...
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