Social Media Lost Loved Ones

The readings for today address the way that the algorithms used by many of the free websites and services used can victimize individuals by forcing traumatic memories and experiences back on them. While the depth of how much the experiences mentioned in the articles hurts is not something most of us as readers can sympathize with it is easy to understand why people like that need a way to opt out. As a male I cannot even come close to how a stillborn child would feel. The closest I have come to experiencing part of that is that I am friends with two unmemorialized accounts of dead loved ones on Facebook. One belongs to a dear childhood friend that I see on certain anniversaries and the other is a friends deceased grandmother who’s living daughter uses her account to make posts and messages as if she were still alive. Seeing both of these things aren’t the result of ad algorithms but I will never want to willingly not see those posts despite the fact the former makes me tear up while the latter makes me incredibly frustrated as I want to remember them but can’t ever cut out anything of whatever’s left and unfollow them which is simple because I want to remember them.

In addition to the difference in level of the relationship shared by the mourning and lost individuals a key difference in why the algorithmic injustice is more frustrating is that I have only observed other people’s interactions and grieving process while the algorithm acts on the authors of today’s readings. My role is an observer looking back rather than a person who is literally having my personal life targeted for commercial gain.

I do recognize the injustice performed by the ad algorithms but I also understand that efficient tracking algorithms that predict wants and need are part of why we can use services for free so that the firm running it can operate. Both authors mentioned that there were ways to manually tell the algorithm you are not interested but is it possible that’s the best we can get? A pregnancy might have dozens of posts made about it over its duration but a serious complication would likely get one or none. If the program that tracks consumers is overly sensitive would it lose efficiency and therefore value?

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  • I think it’s a really interesting point to bring up the efficacy of these algorithms. There are some really awful reminders via social media of things that have happened in people’s lives, as we have seen with these two articles, but there have also been some really amazing reminders. We have all benefited from different parts of the algorithms that make up the social media platform, whether it is obvious or not (seeing more “relevant” things first in our News Feeds, not seeing “clutter”/posts from people we don’t ever interact with, etc.). As this post states, changing that algorithm to make it more sensitive to fluctuations in users’ activities could have negative consequences for the things that we enjoy most about social media.

    Something that both articles bring up is how to find a solution so that traumatic events are not brought up on social media. Both authors suggest adding some form of opting out of ads/yearly reminders. While I do think that that is a good interim solution, it is not something that is long-lasting, especially since there is a commercial purpose to all the aspects of Facebook – the ads are for click-bait and purchasing goods that you may want, and the reflections are meant to induce nostalgia, making you want to post more on social media. All of the features are meant to continue bringing in consumers and to keep the current online community active. By opting out of these services, the companies would not be making as much money and their envision for the platform would be compromised. As a business, then, allowing consumers to opt out and not participate is not beneficial. Thus, it is more important and business savvy for the social media companies to try to improve their algorithm and push the features that they’ve implemented, which are successful for a majority of people. Therefore, looking to find a stronger and more successful algorithm, in my opinion, is where people should be focused since that is in both the consumer’s and company’s best interest.

    One thing that I wonder about is how Facebook could potentially incorporate “Reactions” into their algorithm. Reactions provide more information about how a given user feels about a certain post – happy, sad, funny, mad, etc. I know that currently Reactions are now a larger part of Facebook’s ad and News Feed algorithm (even more so than simple “likes”), but I wonder if they have begun to also include it in features like “Year In Review” that could be a trigger for some people. While not an ideal solution, Reactions to posts/photos could be a key to at least gather more of a notion of whether or not a post is something that should be revisited in the future or should be used for marketing purposes.

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