Social Media Companies are Economically Motivated to Make Us Hate Strangers

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 1 min read

Sarah Frier: Why Your Friends Are Disappearing From Your Social Feeds

When I accidentally tap on any one of the alerts, I enter apps desperate to guide me to content from people I don’t know — posts that I might be momentarily mesmerized by and never remember, touting gardening hacks or unique pastry designs.

I'm a vocal fan of an algorithmic timeline to show me the things I want to see from my friends and family easily, rather than scrolling through the hundreds of thousands of things they've posted since I last signed on.

That said, the economic requirement for companies like Twitter and Meta to continue growing at all costs has meant that my friends and family are not engaging enough, and they have fallen too far on the side of showing me the most compelling content from anyone. It's nice that my friend went to a movie and shared their thoughts, but it's way more likely I'll engage with a post from a stranger who said something provocative (and likely stupid).

I hadn't really thought about it too much, but I wonder if this is one of the reasons that I've been enjoying my time on Mastodon so much more lately. Yes, Twitter is run by a right-wing troll, but that troll (just like the last guys) is also heavily invested in me using that site as much as possible, and hate/doom scrolling is just as good to him as anything else. The ad dollars are just as good either way.

This year, social media mostly stopped offering a window into the lives of our loved ones. It turns out that the social part of social media, which helped shape human behavior online and off for more than a decade, is proving to be something of a fad.

I think this might be an overstatement, but I do think that companies making social networks are economically motivated to take something good and eventually make it bad because it turns out making us angry makes us engage. "We're just doing what the metrics say we should do," is something I really don't want to hear a social media exec ever say again.