The Silence Of The Algorithm

Dinner last night with a friend who’s left Twitter but fondly remembers it as a place where he met people, people introduced themselves to him, struck up actual conversation, had social value.  He’s been off Twitter a while.  Checked into my personal Facebook page last night, where it turns out I follow a hundred people.  Despite having wrangled all the surfacing settings, it only shows me posts from ten of those people, almost all of them violently timeshifted.  The world’s worst time machine.  This morning, I see my acquaintance Boris Anthony argue that Twitter should “go algo” like Facebook and let the system determine what you see.

While I doubt that my own Twitter and Facebook experiences were/are general, I have periods of fascination with the way social media systems eventually failed me.  I keep trying to look ahead to the near-future of digital social connection (without separating it out into an other thing from general social connection, even while I develop the creeping feeling that digital duality may not be a thing in cities but may be in sleepy seaside towns) — and I wonder if attempts at inclusion by algorithm aren’t just locking people in soundproofed boxes.

These are all part-formed thoughts I’m working through, but it strikes me this morning that Twitter going algo would break a (perhaps unspoken) promise made in an earlier age of the internet: that, like FB, it would become a heavily managed means of communication, with arcane rules of entry, that would have its own opinions on whether you get to speak or listen.