2016 is the thirtieth anniversary of my computer use. As I was barely 30 when I started using these things I well recall the newness and excitement of personal computers, the learning curve to use a mouse, type an email, work through the text block of the early Internet.
I’m old enough to remember the excitement of not only colour television but colour Internet with pictures and clickable links. The stuff I taught in high school Computing Studies is now ancient history even though it was a solid foundation for understanding that a computer is simply a binary device.
My senior students (hello Year 12 1988-2000) would recall algorithms which are a process or set of rules to be followed in computer and other operations. It was part of my role to teach the kids to write algorithms in pseudocode and as flowcharts, then they’d write their computer programs.
In the years little has changed except for the sophistication of algorithms and of coding. And now, of course, Facebook and other social media algorithms are written with the intention of making us addicted to their platforms.
You’ve probably noticed that the sponsored ads that appear in your Facebook and other social media feeds dovetail perfectly with the items you buy online, the FB groups you belong to, the opinions expressed by you or others in your feed.
Branded algorithms create these sponsored feeds, they are specifically designed to ensure that what you see in the sponsored feed is either something you actively support or something that you’ll simply pass by rather than be actively opposed to.
Should you share or like a post/photo or other input, the social media algorithm can personalise the feed further through ads and suggested “friends”aligned more specifically to your tastes. Should you use your Facebook login to sign into a new membership elsewhere online the data inflow to the algorithm is maximised.
Perhaps the sneakiest aspect of Facebook is it’s appeal to the lowest and highest within us all. Facebook suggests connection while it takes you away from real life, it suggests depth when you click Like on a video about abuse and, all the while it collects the data to personalise the experience, it hovers and reminds you of what you had to bring you back again and again and again.