Little by little, year by year, social media platforms have been changing to the point that they offer very different experiences from what they did in the beginning. I remember the thrill of connecting with old and new friends, and being able to keep up with their lives. On Facebook and Instagram, my feed never disappointed.
Lately, however, I've noticed that my newsfeed sometimes doesn't even change. If you've seen "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix, you probably figure it has something to do with the algorithm. So I decided to count how many posts are actually about people I decided to follow and how often I am seeing posts and advertisements that are being chosen for me to see. Having done this a few times throughout recent years, I've noticed that advertisements and suggested content have become more frequent. It's almost as though these platforms are using our friends to get us to see what they really want us to see, which of course is what makes them a lot of money. It kind of makes me feel like I'm a fish hooked by the pole of these platforms.
But first, let's consider the positive before the negative. In my personal experience, I have benefitted by the many videos and advertisements that I possibly wouldn't have found on my own, by using Facebook in particular. Depending on what you view, that will usually shape what you are shown in the future. I have seen interesting educational videos that I have enjoyed sharing with my kids that are related to things we are learning in homeschool.
Aside from this, I have also been able to use these platforms to announce my own content. It is helpful in this way, and perhaps we can even argue it's a good thing for the advancement of God's Kingdom, since these platforms can make it easier to get the gospel message heard by someone rather than getting that person to actually show up to church to hear it there (not to say we shouldn't do both).
These platforms have also provided opportunities to make money. There are many people on social media who have been able to become self-employed as a result of these platforms. Even the every day social media user can post something to sell on Facebook and make a quick buck.
Now, let's talk about the negative. I can't help but not like the feeling that I'm being used and tracked by these social media platforms. At first, what might have drawn many of us to social media, like connecting with friends, has led to a new habit of constantly checking our social media as part of our daily lives, and now a convenient switch has happened for these platforms. Now it's not so much about our feed being controlled by us directly by choosing what we get to see, but we are partnering with these platforms to somewhat decide what we are shown whether we want to see it or not. Would I prefer to see my friends posts as they come in on Facebook and Instagram? Absolutely. Would I prefer to opt out of seeing advertisements and suggested videos and pages? Yes!
As much as I have benefitted from these new changes, I have also probably not benefitted as much in the financial department. I would say it's like having a door salesman show up on your screen every few seconds that you scroll on your social media. Do you want this? Could you use this? Well of course I would like that and could use that! Purchasing these things have never been as easy as pushing a button. It can be very tempting to go over budget and begin to loose contentment for the things we already have in pursuit of the next newest thrill. Like anything else, we can learn to be more disciplined and say no as we scroll away when it isn't the right decision, but if it is your weakness, you might need to resolve to be less on these business promoting platforms.
Whatever you choose to do, let's be aware of how these constant changes are benefitting these platforms and where they aren't benefitting us. Instead of letting them use us, let's be intentional of how we will use them.