Break the chains of the algorithm

Wade Young, Montgomery Messenger

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a finite sequence of well-defined, computer-implementable instructions, typically to solve a class of problems or to perform a computation.
To put it in layman’s terms, an algorithm is what keeps us addicted to our electronic devices.
Like millions of people I like my electronics - television, computer and cell phone, but I felt I might be using it too much. So, I downloaded an app on my phone to track how much time I spent on it. In one day alone, I spent four hours and 35 minutes. Doing some old school math, that equates to more than five days on the device (no judging).
Granted, that also includes time on it for work - taking photos, replying to text messages … etc. Of course, it also includes social media (Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram).
The movie “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix is a documentary where tech experts are interviewed on the negative impacts of social media. They outline the real major problems: addiction and how social media affects the human psyche.
We all know that social media and the internet is filled with advertisements, which pay for those outlets. However, what pays the advertisers?
We do, when we shop.
Anyone who has ever searched for something on their device will most surely see ads pop up in all of their social media feeds. These “reminders”are the result of your data (searches), which are being stored and shared to algorithms. These algorithms are supposed to predict who we are based on all of our searches and posts, etc.
Each app has its own algorithm. All of these compete with each other to create the best version of you that will have you coming back, time and time again.
Following me so far?
We are addicted to the feeling of refreshing our feed or checking our notifications to notice and the “positive reinforcement” it gives us.
This positive reinforcement we are constantly being given is like a “reward.”
It’s like our cat, Tink. Whenever we step near the fridge, he meows. Not the regular meow, but the cute little chirp. When he adds the cute little eyes, we oblige and give him some pieces of cheddar cheese.
Does this hurt him?
I don’t think so. He never gets sick of it, and seeing him happy makes us happy. It’s positive reinforcement for both of us!
Social media started out as a way to “connect” us to our friends and family. However, like everything, it has evolved into the beast that it is today.
How many times were you going to work on a project and instead you wasted hours on social media? Students can relate to this.
I can relate to this.
Maybe it’s time to get back to our roots.
Limit the screen time. The app I installed tells me how much time I’ve spent on the device. It gives me goals to limit the exposure and can lock me out of apps … if I let it. (Haven’t gotten that far yet!)
The easiest way is to physically put it down.
Do other things like play a board game, draw, write (using a pen and paper), watch a movie, go for a walk, play with the cat or dog, etc. Do the things that make you feel most alive instead of letting the artificial world make you feel that way. That will stop the algorithm.


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