“Once you see the boundaries of your environment, they are no longer the boundaries of your environment.”

Marshall McLuhan


“You are not a Gadget” by Jaron Lanier is chockfull of useful thoughts for anyone interested in social media and how technology shapes us. Tucked within it is the idea of fighting being designed by software.” Basically in 2010 (and even earlier) Lanier warned us how technology influences not just our behavior, but our psychological makeup. In today’s world that torch is being held by Tristan Harris and Daniel Schmachtenberger and a number of other people.

Which leads me to suggest that I don’t follow the traditional social media rules and, well, I am fighting back.

Hugh McLeod

So, let’s talk about the fight. Basically, anyone who knows anything about how software is constructed, especially within social media, suggests stepping away and increasing human interaction (dialogue and debate). Jaron tosses in a twist by simply suggesting if you are going to be involved on social media you should ‘resist the groove or risk being entrapped’ by the software (algorithms). This comes to life by being intentional you can at least partially escape the traps the algorithms set for us. The easiest way is to make your social identity less easily identifiable. What I mean by that is engage in ways that doesn’t fit into easily identifiable templates available on social networking sites. Put some effort into expressing your voice & expression outside of typical topics to attract people outside typical topics. Post blog posts on a variety of topics with different views. In other words, don’t give software an easy way to design you which makes it more difficult for them to groove a design FOR you. Make “yourself fragments” difficult to be painted a simplistic whole, and, make your fragments difficult to be exploited. By broadening who and what you are, algorithms will struggle to ‘binary you.’

It is nice to remind yourself on occasion that the true whole of you cannot be defined by some simplistic description and, therefore, no specific topic should define you.

** note: that idea is actually contrary to what most ‘career advisors’ or ‘personal branding’ experts espouse. Traditional thinking is focus on a single topic and become known for it. Generally speaking that advice doesn’t suck but with everything we know about algorithms and social media it is also fraught with peril.

In addition, we should all remind ourselves that the true nature of the internet is one of good and possibilities. If we do that, we realize that it is the algorithms constantly nudging us to be lesser versions of who we are, and could be, that is the enemy.

Which leads me to self-awareness.

Social media has possibly been one of the most destructive weapons of self-awareness. This may seem weird because social media is possibly one of the most public tools of ‘self’ in existence. But it has prompted us to:

    • Make the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ 1950’s mentality look quaint. It is true before social media people compared themselves to others, but that circle of comparisons was finite (magazines, community, family). Social media is infinite in comparisons. It is easy to lose yourself when wandering in the infinite.
    • Divide ourselves into fragments, put those fragments under microscopes, and parse out everything bad within that fragment. In other words, it is difficult to apply an 80/20 rule to oneself, I am 80% good & 20% bad/working on it when social media is encouraging you to believe even your 80% has a healthy bad thread interwoven. It is easy to lose sight of your good, let alone good in general, when wherever you turn someone is suggesting something either unrealistic or something bad.

I don’t care how resilient and self aware you are, any sustained stream of negativity, or doubt inducing interactions, can immerses one enough that you can drown. I’d be remiss if I didn’t circle back to my “not defined by one topic” thought to point out while ‘more than one topic’ battles algorithms it also opens you up to more attacks. All I can say is if you elect to play the internet social media game, play it well or die.

Anyway. You can’t abdicate self to the social media.

Which leads me back to intentionality.

You cannot be intentional on this topic without self-awareness and self-awareness demands you recognize how social media, software and algorithms not only can influence you, but do influence you. This is an issue. To be fair, the majority of people do not think they can be influenced by any communications let alone social media. “Advertising doesn’t work on me; it works on other people.” Shit. I even know people in advertising who don’t believe Facebook can influence people <exhibit A would be the 2016 election>. If you do not believe you are being influenced, you will not intentionally do anything to stop being influenced.


“When we don’t notice we are being influenced, we cannot argue back.”

Paul Feldwick


Simplistically, you cannot escape a trap unless you see you are in a trap. I believe what I am suggesting here is that even before you become intentional, you have to believe you can be trapped. I say that because if you do not, then your intentionality will most likely be misguided or maybe better said – not aggressive enough. You will be intentional, but intentionally passive. If you see, and agree, there are things out there intentionally trying to influence you – and that on THEIR good days they win – then maybe your intentionality will have the appropriate focus and commitment.

And that is where social media algorithms hate me.

I aggressively, intentionally, fight social media algorithms.

I aggressively, intentionally, make my ‘whole self’ difficult to pin down by algorithms.

I aggressively, intentionally, interact with ideas, opinions and people who by any definition do not espouse my beliefs.

Algorithms do not know what to do with me, and I am okay with that. In the end I have seen the boundaries and, therefore, they are no longer boundaries.  I imagine my larger point is if everyone fought a bit more on social media maybe the algorithms would stop sucking all the good out of social media. Ponder.

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Written by Bruce