The Almighty Algorithm Feeds You All the Same Stuff
Does anyone else remember how the list of recommended videos under the YouTube video you were watching would simply be related videos regardless of whether or not you had ever seen them before? Because I sure as fuck do. I could pull up “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies and have an entire late nineties playlist directly on the page below it, usually including some song or two I hadn’t even thought about since the last millennium. Want to mellow out in the afternoon listening to some Yacht Rock? Pull up some Christopher Cross and bam! Afternoon set.
Now, no matter which video I pull up, YouTube shows me the same fucking list of videos I have watched in the past couple of weeks, all with that little red bar on the bottom showing me I’ve already seen it. On my homepage they advertise these music mixes that will be filled with similar music to something I’ve already watched, artists I generally don’t listen to and want to give them a chance, but nope! As soon as I actually open that mix it’s once again populated with the same fucking music I’ve already listened to.
And I know there are better services out there to find new music. Fuck, at this point FM radio is a better way. But I sit at my computer all the live long day and I like having music videos up on the screen while I’m typing because I’m a nineties kid and I grew up on TRL and Top Twenty Countdown on VH1. Sometimes, yes, I do want to rewatch the video for “Raspberry Beret” because it is perfect, but really I just hate that the algorithm has basically padded the walls on my little bubble and every time I try to break out it tackles me to the ground and drags me to a Half Alive video.
The Internet is Becoming a Perpetual Funeral For People and Animals I Don’t Know
I first noticed this on YouTube, originally just on older, slower songs which makes a certain amount of sense, but now it really doesn’t seem to matter the vibe of the song or how old it is. Scroll down far enough – usually not far at all – and you’ll find The Eulogy Comment. I’m not going to put up examples because I’m trying not to attack anyone specifically. I’m just over here in my little padded bubble (thanks, YT!) complaining about things away from the people who are grieving and this is already going to sound callous enough.
But the grief is everywhere and I really need it to stop. Start searching through YouTube videos and it won’t take long until you find a comment that’s something like, “This was mom’s favorite song we used to sing it together in the car on the way to chemo six years gone I love you mom,” and it’s, like, Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping.” Comments like that are everywhere now, and despite outward appearances I can be a very empathetic person and a bit of crier. I teared up writing that entire hypothetical run-on sentence. The grief is everywhere and it’s exhausting.
Even worse are the cat subreddits. Probably all the animal-based subreddits, actually, but I mostly follow the cat ones. I’ll scroll down and see the cutest little fluffy black cat I’ve seen in the past half hour and coo over it, and my eyes drift up to the post title and it’s something like ‘Sent Staff Sergeant Fuzzy Pants over the Rainbow Bridge today’ and then next thing I know I’m crying into my own cat’s stomach while I pat her head and she gnaws on my hand.
I get that the internet is for sharing. In fact, as far as I can tell the internet has turned into a place for over-sharing. And I get that death is a natural part of life and one that we, as a society, have decided to try and fight as best we can even if the results aren’t actually positive. I was a nurse for seven years, believe me, I have very strong opinions on the way our society treats death.
On the other hand, sometimes I just want to have fun on the internet and pretend I and everyone I know are immortal and getting tricked into reading about your dead cat is really harshing my buzz.
You’re Not Allowed to Say ‘No’ Anymore
When you’re living boonies-adjacent like I am, there’s pretty much only four types of post on Nextdoor:
- I Need X Service Done for My House, Any Recommendations?
- Help! Lost Pet/Whose Pet is This?
- Look At This Camera Footage of This Wild Animal That Climbed Up Onto My Porch
Nextdoor, like other apps, uses an algorithm to try and decide what it thinks you want to see. Which is fucking ridiculous because everyone I have ever heard talk about this only wants one thing: a chronological feed of the things said by people you agreed to follow. That’s it. No Popular Posts. No Suggested Posts By People You Don’t Follow But The App Is Making Assumptions. And why anyone would want all the posts jumbled is just fucking beyond. Chronological order. It’s that simple.
Luckily, you can tell Nextdoor that’s how you want to see posts. Unluckily, this decision is only valid for sixty fucking days, and then it shunts you back into Top Posts because you’re not allowed to deny the algorithm its daily meal of souls, or whatever the fuck.
Twitter used to do the same thing. I have no idea if it does anymore because I bailed on Twitter shortly after Elon “I’ll Give a Million Dollars To Anyone Who Can Prove My Dad Actually Owned an Emerald Mine Oh Shit No Dad Not You Sit Down” Musk took over, but now that Twitter is basically just a writhing pile of problems I wouldn’t be surprised if this is still one of them.
Do you remember when Google bought YouTube, and they were integrating Google accounts into your YouTube account and it would ask you if you want to display your Google account name and picture for your YouTube account and you would say ‘no’ and then it would say something like, “Okay, we’ll ask you again soon?” Because I sure fucking do.
You’re not allowed to experience websites or apps any other way than the way the creators and advertisers want you to, but for some reason they like to pretend that you can and just hound you about it until you give in.
Headlines Are Mostly Lies
Basically, clickbait titles have hit critical mass and aren’t even pretending anymore.
These headlines are coming from shitty websites anyway, the sort of stuff that populates my Google newsfeed and not actual publications I’d want to read. If The Atlantic starts running headlines that read ‘President Biden is Dead, How is This Going to Change the White House?’ and then you open it, shocked you’re finding out this news in a fucking Atlantic article with this tone, and find out that he only stubbed his toe and everything else is a hypothetical, well, fuck everything I guess. Burn down the internet and move into the woods. That’s my plan anyway. Find your own piece of nothing.
Here’s a sample of some of the article headlines I see on a weekly basis:
- This Beloved Fan-Favorite Disney Ride is SHUTTING DOWN (For regularly scheduled maintenance, it’ll be open again in a month and a half)
- This Entire Disney Park is Closing Its Doors! (Just an actual lie)
- Disney is Fuming Mad at Brie Larson and Going to Shoot Her Into The Sun (I haven’t seen any of these lately because I finally managed to block all the Go Woke, Go Broke type websites and blogs that were getting fed to me)
- Famous Actor Stuns in First Image as Famous Comic Book Character (In a piece of fan art. It’s ALWAYS a piece of fan art)
- Huge Spoiler For Movie That You Haven’t Seen Yet Because It Only Came Out A Week Ago in an Entirely Unrelated Article (This one isn’t a lie, it’s just fucking frustrating. I keep getting spoiled for Marvel movies while reading recipes)
- What Just Emerged at the Grand Canyon Terrifies Scientists (Okay, this one is also cheating because these blogs aren’t even trying to be respectable, they’re the equivalent of grocery store checkout tabloids, but Google just mixes them in with all the other bullshit and I’m sure someone out there is going to look at that and believe it for half a second even though
A lot of these are still tailored specifically to me but I bet if you scroll through your own mostly ignored news stream you’ll see lots of these. Lies. Fabrications. Looking for clicks and absolutely nothing else. I don’t even know if they correct themselves in these articles because I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of going to find out.