Social Networking and Running Away

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The Gravity Newsletter talks about Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ New Yorker article ” How Harmful is Social Media “:

Recommendation algorithms do not lead to information cocoons, on the contrary, recommendation algorithms most want you to try more types of content – after all, so that you can consume more content and contribute more time.

More content does not equal more types of content.

This New Yorker article is in response to Jonathan Haidt’s ” Why The Past 10 Years Of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid ” in The Atlantic in April. The general idea is that the impact of social networking sites on society is neither black nor white, and it is hard to describe.

I think the fundamental problem is that the people who design social networking sites and recommendation algorithms have a very crude definition of “discovery”. This requires no investigation and can be inferred from common sense. For example, as a Chinese, how can I “discover” Indonesian art rock? Maybe there are Indonesian Chinese relatives in the family. Perhaps my father was a businessman in Indonesia in his early years. Maybe I ran away from home and fled to Indonesia. Maybe someone I exchanged spoof tapes with on the Internet introduced me to Harry Roesli. Maybe I’m a student of Indonesian at the Foreign Language Institute. Maybe I am an employee of the Chinese embassy in Indonesia. All these karma will greatly affect my understanding of Indonesian art rock. But software products can’t be so finely tailored to everyone. The basics: what about privacy? It’s not a matter of some ad agency seeing what sites I visit, it’s a matter of I don’t want people to know that I’m running away from home.

Further, it’s a question of how tolerant society is to running away from home.

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