I once thought social media was an unprecedented platform for diversity and creativity. The opposite seems to be true. Take Instagram. What do 100 million images a day deliver to participants? Mostly homogeneous streams of endlessly repeated memes, clichés and conformity
The video documents me going through the “For Me” tab on Instagram. Ouch.
The astounding uniformity doesn’t happen by chance. Continuous surveillance fine-tunes algorithms that influence what we create, share, view, and who we follow. Positive and negative reinforcement mechanisms (likes, comments, follows, etc.) shape the social network into cohorts of people and content with a narrow focus.
Social media delivers what we crave. Instagram has 1 billion users; Facebook more than 2 billion. Emerging platforms like TikTok are bringing younger and younger people into the paradigm. It may have swung the U.S. presidential election.
As of today, more than half the Internet users around the world are on Social media platforms. It’s become so pervasive and ubiquitous that opting out means being cut off from a significant aspect of modern society; from our circle of friends and colleagues; from the potential audience for our art.
If not participating isn’t a good option, is it possible to transcend the game mechanics that narrow our experience and participation? On an individual level, maybe. Collectively, we’re screwed.