Social Media Bubbles

Social media bubbles

Social media algorithms determine what you see when you search and scroll the platforms. Not your friends.

Due to their serving tech companies business model, these algorithms are always changing. The changes can be difficult to measure for subsets of industries, never mind individuals. But these changes affect your business, if you rely on them.

So from a business standpoint, you could view the rules of the game set by Facebook and Google as constraints. The Australian government seems to think so. They're looking to limit the scope of these arbitrary changes (NYT gated content):

If the bill passes in one form or another, which seems likely, the digital platforms will have to give the media 14 days’ notice of deliberate algorithm changes that significantly affect their businesses. Even that, some critics argue, is not enough for Big Tech.

“I think Google and Facebook are seriously worried that other countries will join in Australia’s effort,” said Johan Lidberg, a professor of media at Monash University in Melbourne. “This could eventually cause substantial revenue losses globally and serious loss of control, exemplified by the algorithm issue.”

But, he added, using threats to bully lawmakers will not do them any good.

“Google’s overreaction perfectly illustrates why the code is needed,” he said, “and beyond that, the dire need for all governments, across the globe, to join in efforts in reining in and limiting the power of these companies that is completely out of hand.”

Of course, where there's an obstacle or problem, there's a business.

And millions of different service and tech providers blossomed to help you and your business get around the algorithm. So it's a matter of choosing which constraints to embrace. It's like strategy.

Bonus points: Constraints are useful for creativity

But when it comes to the narrowing of what we see and read in social media is not as beneficial. In the best of cases, bubbles lull us into a false sense of confidence that what we see online is a reflection of reality.

The corporate equivalent of bubbles is internal focus. Companies whose websites reflect the org chart and not what customers want (and need). Firms that have special lingo-as-handshakes and keep new people in the dark.

When the internal dialogue overpowers what happens on the outside, disconnects happen. Every company and tightly knit group thinks they're unique. And so they are. But the best way to create a monopoly is not to close yourself off to other points of view.

The opposite is true.

Practice in the discovery and dialogue with diverse sources of knowledge makes the unique combination of who and what you are stronger. 

Busting our own bubbles is a matter of choosing which constraints to break.

It's like innovation. Meet new people, finding new ideas, and studying different cultures can and does augment your thinking. When I picked up Andrea Agassi's autobiography, tennis was a culture I knew nothing about. 

Open is easily one of the best books about being human I've read in a long time. Agassi is raw, fun, and good company. One of a kind. One of the best. One of us.

Based on his struggles, I jotted down a few thoughts about how to channel our common need for perfection. Because perfection is the incentive to stay stuck in one's ways. And that's the opposite of what creators need.


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