Today, people will scroll through their Facebook or Twitter accounts liking posts from friends, family, and various companies. These “likes” have become a form of a social status for people; the more likes one gets, the more “popular” or well known someone seems. While these likes affect the receiver in a social way, they also greatly affect the liker. These likes affect the liker in what will continue to show up on their feed. Whether it be actual posts or ads.
Facebook and other similar websites use algorithms to determine what shows up on your feed. There will be plenty of posts from family and friends, but also pages that you’ve never seen or heard of before. These pages pop up because you showed interest in pages similar to those.
To test how this would work, I created a “bot” Facebook profile. I started off with 10 liked pages and liked every post thrown at me. Each day, I will add the first 10 related pages that I come across to the list. Below is my account of being a Facebook machine:
I started off liking pages that I was interested in: UNC basketball, the NBA, Chick-Fil-A, favorite bands, and a right-winged page here and there. Facebook has already begun to recommend similar pages, but no real patterns yet.
Now I’m beginning to see a pattern. My timeline had been littered with upcoming concert series and advocates of the second amendment. While some of these posts are very informative and interesting, needless to say, there are a good number of posts that are annoying. But I will continue to like every post I come across, no matter how annoying or illogical it may seem.
I can’t go on Facebook for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I tried liking some liberal pages to see a difference in posts between them and conservative pages. But the main thing that both parties do is attack one another. For example, the Democratic page would create posts with biting commentary against House Speakers like John Boehner, or that EVERY liberal MUST carry their coffee in an “I hate Tea (Parties)” tumbler. I’ve also noticed thats it’s not only the pages I’ve liked that dictate what shows up on my feed.
Also, the pages I’ve liked the most posts of will show up more. For example, I liked a considerable amount of 2nd Amendment posts, allowing my timeline to be bombarded other NRA or Conservative posts. With that being said, posts from weeks or months ago from guitar magazines like Kerrang! or humorous pages like CollegeHumor are popping up at the top of my feed, making them look recent. In a way, Facebook is saying, “you seem to like this a lot, so let’s like even more posts from this page, as well as others similar to it”.
Andy Warhol, the famous painter, once said in an interview with Art News, “Everybody looks alike and acts alike, and we’re getting more and more that way. I think everybody should be a machine. I think everybody should like everybody.”
When later asked if liking things was like being a machine, Warhol said, “Yes, because you do the same thing every time. You do it over and over again.”
I was machine. I sat at a computer or stared down at my phone scrolling through posts: over 30 liked pages and over 130 liked posts. This is only for a max of 10-15 minutes per day. Imagine someone who sits and scrolls for hours, mindlessly liking posts, and for what? Yeah, ok, I now know that Malcolm Young, guitarist for AC/DC, celebrated his birthday is on January 6th, and that I need to preserve my second amendment rights. Many posts that I came across were fun and informative, but just as many are annoying.
I will continue to use social media, though, but will try to learn from the posts of my peers. Next time I will read before I like, and use my “likes” sparingly. I challenge everyone to do the same. Think before you like.