Jia Tolentino wonders where we end and the algorithms begin:
October 27, 2019
We have been inadvertently preparing for this experience for years. On YouTube and Twitter and Instagram, recommendation algorithms have been making us feel individually catered to while bending our selfhood into profitable shapes. TikTok favors whatever will hold people’s eyeballs, and it provides the incentives and the tools for people to copy that content with ease. The platform then adjusts its predilections based on the closed loop of data that it has created. This pattern seems relatively trivial when the underlying material concerns shaving cream and Crocs, but it could determine much of our cultural future. The algorithm gives us whatever pleases us, and we, in turn, give the algorithm whatever pleases it. As the circle tightens, we become less and less able to separate algorithmic interests from our own.