Algorithms and Anger

This post by Brent Simmons and the follow up make an important point on the workings of algorithms. Quoting a tweet from Joshua Emmons:

Brent is making a subtle point here:
1. Algorithms weigh signal.
2. In the domain of engagement, outrage and anger mask all other signals.
3. These signals are fatiguing. As Outrage: 5 is normalized, Outrage: 10 is now required to move the needle.

This is why I spend increasingly less time on social media. It makes me sad and angry. Not because people are bad, or because, even that the companies themselves are evil. The problem is that when you create a system that rewards “engagement” what you’re really rewarding is content that makes you angry.

And this why I intend to post here a bit more often, and also why I’m not really intending to do much pushing of this on the social media channels that ruin my mood. The rising emotions and the need for the simulation of social interaction is what hooks me into these channels, but what they give in return is nothing like the pleasure of a real social interaction, leading me to try and get more. And this, in turn, exposes me to yet more content that makes me angry.

It’s a vicious circle of anger and unfulfilled promise, and increasingly, I hate it.

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