A long time ago, in a generation far away from the present, there was a TV show called “The Outer Limits” famous for its opening sequence narration:
There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to – The Outer Limits.
Little did they know then, they were describing the future Facebook and Instagram services which use algorithms to determine what you see in your news feed. Both services control the content you see – imagine the possibilities for propaganda when all you see is what a giant corporation’s secret algorithms choose to show you.
Instagram says it uses three main factors, based on your past actions and behaviors, to determine how to build your feed: Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post. Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones. Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.Instagram adds that it also considers the frequency with which you open Instagram, the number of people you follow, and how long you generally spend in the app during each session.
George Orwell’s 1984 was not intended as operating instructions for the future, but as a warning.
Sadly, Mark Zuckerberg adopted 1984 as the operating guidelines for Facebook and Instagram.