Scrolling down the Instagram explore page, I try to stay productive (or at least I tell that to myself) while sitting on the toilet seat with sleepy eyes. Same old same old. Posts from random comedians I don’t follow, but which are nevertheless entertaining. Then there’s some meme about design tools, a video with a clickbait cover image, all of which causes me to pause and let it play. All in the name of *ahem* staying productive. Moments later, I’m bored so I switch to Pinterest. “I’ll pin some ideas for the interface that I’m designing”, I think to myself. A bit more relevant stuff here, but still a lot of similar images and clips with clickbait cover images. I double-check just to make sure I’m on Pinterest, and not on Instagram. Nope, I’m definitely on Pinterest. Why the fuck does everything look similar then? 

I wipe my ass, wash my hands, brush my teeth, splash some water on my face, and brew some coffee and sit on my laptop to investigate. Ok, now, where was I? Oh yea, the similar feeds on Instagram and Pinterest. I can’t tell the difference between the advertisements and the content that is just being pushed to keep me on the platform. It’s all the same, but maybe the advertisements are the ones with brand logos. Wait, or is this a post being shown to me coz I like a lot of logo design content? Maybe. 

I originally used Instagram to share snaps of work and my personal life and look up similar content. I used Pinterest to explore ideas and save them for later. But since lately, they both feel quite similar to me. I’m just not sure if it’s because they share the advertisement data or if my browsing habits are similar on both these products. 

Ok, think… think! *Recalls*

“If you aren’t paying for it, then you’re the product.”

Ok, so these apps are definitely gobbling up any data on me to show me relevant advertisements. Let’s say it goes like this- 

First, I see some random stuff on my feed, and I pause at stuff that I like. Then the app recognises that this is the case and the content is attractive for me. So, the next time I open my feed, it shows me similar content or the content that the app has tailored for me.

Behaviour drives content drives behaviour
‘Tis a cycle

Great plan. Except, all the social media apps are doing the same thing now and I can’t tell the difference between the damn products. It’s all garbage to me. It’s content that I find fascinating, but it’s still garbage. 

Wait, there’s another quote that I nearly missed. Let’s look at its paraphrased version-

“The machine ensures the outcome of its own predictions.”

Sweet. I’m sure there’s a proper theorem out there that states this more clearly, but this will do. Do these social media platforms predict my behaviour, then complement it with the relevant content to ensure the outcome of their predictions? Fuck yeah, that must be it. 

YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat (and TikTok from what I have read) may serve different purposes but end up with a feed that has large portions dedicated to the garbage content (let’s call it G-Con, you know, coz it cons you into staying on the app)- content that is fun to watch but greatly deviates from the app’s original intent. G-Con also causes these apps to feel the same. And I bet someone will come up with an app that has a better algorithm that will lead to the downfall of these existing apps. Or these apps will gobble up each other. 

Stromae: "Tous les memes"
They’re all the same!

Either ways, not all of them are here to stay. 

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