Algorithmic Feeds

The algorithmic feed is among the worst inventions of the 21st century. The extent of damage it has caused is hard to measure, but you can probably feel it.

The main issue with generated feeds is that they need to rely on some metric to decide what content to show you. In most cases, this metric is engagement, which is pretty annoying. To be fair, any metric would be bad. It’s impossible to reduce what someone likes or dislikes into one number.

When a single number is used to track the quality of recommendations, it stops reflecting reality. Instead, people start to gamble it. As a result, you get clickbait tweets, posts, and video titles. Content quality deteriorates, yet you are more likely to engage with it.

The best solution I’ve found is to avoid any app or service with algorithmic feeds.

For example, I almost abandoned Twitter. There was a time when I could read what the people I followed wrote. Then, Twitter introduced algorithmic feeds and eventually removed third-party clients.

It’s not only about Twitter. Much worse happened to Instagram where you almost don’t see what your friends post. Meta knows better what you’ll engage with.

I would still love to use Twitter or Instagram. But it’s too much work — there are only a few people left there who I like following, the rest became victims of this race to the bottom — self-promotion at the expense of sincerity.

There’s an essay by Scott Alexander on the topic of competition and the incentives it creates. I want to finish this post with a quote from that post:

There’s a passage in the Principia Discordia where Malaclypse complains to the Goddess about the evils of human society. “Everyone is hurting each other, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war.”

The Goddess answers: “What is the matter with that, if it’s what you want to do?”

Malaclypse: “But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it!”

Goddess: “Oh. Well, then stop.”