Feeding the Feed: Social Media’s Greatest Triumph

Social media wouldn’t exist without users to create content. Or without users to promote, share, comment on, and like content. In other words, social media’s survival depends on two main ingredients: content and interaction with the content.

In order for social media companies to exist, they have to convince people to create content. New content. Flashy content. Interesting content that people will read. Or in lieu of reading, clicking on an attractive, sensational headline and sharing it.

Slowly, social media became an integral part of our lives. People now rely on it for things like communicating with friends and family. Or for promoting businesses and services. Or for socializing and forming groups.

However, social media also relies on us, as potential content creators, to create content. This is the sneaky part of social media. We become addicted to it and dependent on it. The more we use it, the more social media companies can survive and thrive. We continually feed the social media beast. In most cases, we do it willingly, voluntarily, and gladly for what we perceive that we’re getting in return.

When you disconnect from your device, and favorite social media apps for a few moments, the relationship becomes clearer. Social media needs us and we need them. Even for those of us who have become wary of using social media (e.g., The Deletist!), we still have to use it once in a while. If we don’t, we miss out on too many things. It’s a complicated relationship.

Without users to feed the feeds, social media wouldn’t exist. Who would bother to use it if content never changed?

Although I haven’t done any research on this, I suspect that the 80/20 rule applies to social media. Essentially, this means 80% of the content is created by 20% of the users. Some people are prolific, and successful, content creators. Other people are happy to share and interact with existing content, rather than create new content themselves.

Either way, the social media companies benefit. They’ve convinced us to do the dirty work of running their machines. Sure, we get some benefits from it. But if we really understood the true cost of what we’ve been giving up, would we still “feed the feeds” so willingly?

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