I don’t want to bore you with a think piece on algorithmic content curation in social media. But the more I spend time away from places like Twitter, the more it is on my mind.
To be more precise, I’ve been thinking a lot about time and attention, and how it factors into how ideas spread.
Take this blog post for example. It is only 300 words long and aims at a fourth grade reading level. It should take no more than a minute for the average reader to process.
Sixty seconds might sound like a tiny amount of time to spend on something. But in Twitter-time, it’s an eternity. We scan tweets there in fractions of a second, and yet every single one asks us a set of questions: “Like me? Share me? Reply to me?”
Sixty seconds spent on Twitter means making a hundred micro-decisions. Because no human can think that fast, we react based on patterns instead. On gut feelings. On social signals.
We rarely know the people whose tweets land in our feeds. But their metadata nudges us to engage anyway: “Five people I follow liked this tweet. It has six hundred retweets. It follows the same meme format that some other super popular tweet used. It’s cool! It’s relevant! Share it!!!!!!!”
When we act on that impulse, it becomes yet another data point for the algorithm. It pushes a signal to the people following us, and their followers, too. From there, they get shaken down in the same fashion.
This how social media works. It is by design. Whenever you read or write a tweet, these forces are in constant motion around you. And you’re encouraged to react immediately without thinking.
But what happens when you do stop to think, even if only for a minute?