October 05, 2021
Together can happen.
Tweeting our way to a better world.
A recent discussion about Facebook’s algorithms has left me dreaming about our future once again. I’d like to think we can get a whole lot more out of social media than we do. We all know what ‘click-bait’ is and how social media companies (and influencers) tend to promote the most salacious content. Anything that gets a strong reaction or can become a fad is prioritized. Everything the programmers do behind the scenes is geared to appeal to people in one specific way: get rich quick. It’s not the promise of getting rich quick that keeps people clicking, but rather the instant gratification that comes from venting, becoming popular or simply being noticed. In the background, all math leads to one simple graph: the vertical spike. The same elongated parabola used in every marketing class to describe fads. It’s narrow, high and has small tails. This is what all the algorithms are trying to define in mathematical terms. What creates ‘skyrocketing’? In short, negative human emotions. That’s why we became locked in this cycle of constant culture wars. It increased clicks and engagement on the website. But what If I told you there was another way to increase clicks and engagement?
Sooner or later, even Facebook will have to admit that people suffer from emotional burnout. There are only so many anxiety inducing news stories one can handle. Then something else happens: people disengage from social media entirely to find peace of mind. Paradoxically, these companies engineered the exact results they didn’t want to see: declining demand. So what might social media look like if these companies took these lessons to heart?
One of the simplest ways to re-engineer social media would be to take the hubris, hatred and anger out of the algorithms. Instead of prioritizing short-term profits, greed and power we could build the platform using our positive emotions: nostalgia, sentiment and whimsy. We could crack the code for sustainable social media. In short, there is a right and a wrong way to get clicks, and social media chose the most egregious, hateful, greedy and short-sighted way to do it. Yes, the curve on the graph will look different at first. It will grow more slowly and be flatter. We can help with growth in other ways like advertising, recognition (shares) and choosing to lend our voice to individual users (endorsements). It would mirror the growth of now iconic tv shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings all of which have one thing in common: cult fandom. Yes – you read that correctly. Cult. Fandom. All these iconic works of art have these very human elements in common. They play to all the positive emotions I described above. In some cases, they propose a wonderful future for the human race. All positivity. All great messages of hopes and dreams. The kind I try to promote on my website. Well, there you have it. If I’m successful, I’ll be a testament to my own model of sustainable social media. After all, the core of my writing revolves around the one overarching theme of ‘Into the Stars’ and bringing us together as people.
Lots of love,
M.G. McIntosh (President & CEO)
Voice In The Wind Magazine Inc.