Scott’s Thoughts: Beyond the Algorithms

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher.

Women having a conversation.The new year is here, and with it comes 365 days of potential growth. How will you challenge yourself this year? What steps will you take to ensure you explore new ideas? Where will you find inspiration?

Despite the flood of information pushed at us on a daily basis and the nearly infinite results returned from a Google search, it’s becoming more and more difficult to use the internet to explore alternative perspectives or different points of view. Part of the reason for this is built into the design of the platforms we use every day. Complex, obscured algorithms track our browsing habits, teaching apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram what keeps us engaged. Every like, retweet, or comment is a tiny lesson for the machine. Over time, this information is used to customize the type of information we see and when we see it.

The problem with this is that it severely limits the scope of what we might encounter online. This limitation, in turn, cuts us off from opportunities for growth. We don’t really “browse” anymore in the original meaning of the word. Browsing implies the possibility for surprise. But within the walls of social media we are less likely than ever to wander down a random path, or click away in new directions. To be sure, each of these platforms wants us to stay within the platform. (This is why sites like Facebook reward people who post content to their platform with wider exposure versus those who “link out” to other websites.)

What I would suggest for personal and professional growth in 2019 is a concerted effort to look offline for sources of inspiration and learning. In other words, connect with more people in person. Talk to local booksellers. Engage in conversations in coffee shops. Seek human interaction first, and follow-up with research online later.

As “the internet” increasingly becomes synonymous with “social media controlled by corporations,” don’t let it become the sole source of your growth this year. Look beyond the algorithms.

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