An algorithm is a procedure or formula for solving a problem or creating a specific outcome, based on conducting a sequence of specified actions. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms incorporate sophisticated algorithms designed to grab our attention. Every application and commercial venture on the internet employs algorithms to drive their business models. Management of data streams rely on these specific procedures to maximize user acquisition and profitability.
Interestingly, if we did not have egos, there would be no profit made on the internet. Marketing relies on our vanity so it follows that social media algorithms would be based on the need for personal validation. This begins in the form of positive responses to our online posts and morphs into pre-selected news stories to feed our presuppositions and any other media content that encourages our prejudice. However, when we do get validation of our existence and point of view, it is merely a temporary satisfaction of our desire for approval. So we continue to scan various media looking for things to reinforce our conditioned sense of self.
We may not realize that we are also being scanned. The sophisticated algorithms employed by internet companies track our interests and allow us to see only what we want to see—and our personal data is sold to other companies who also track our interests. Every company hopes we will get addicted to this self-indulgent process—and we do get very addicted. The satisfaction of our desires stimulates a dopamine release in the brain and we experience temporary ‘high’ or pleasure response. Since that pleasure is fleeting, we again scroll and swipe to find another ‘hit’.
Of course, this goes on in our brain all the time. We indulge our need to feel validated by the way we engage intimate relationships and friends of our personal ideologies. This becomes habitual and often leads to disappointment. Technology is simply encouraging, and making a profit from, the habits of our ego identities. Buddha suggested misspent desire always causes suffering and ego-clinging drives all desire. So we might question our motivation for indulging in social media. If we are not careful, we might elect a president who spends all his time on Twitter, defending his inflated ego.
So, I would suggest to everyone that they experiment with ‘unplugging’. Go on a media fast and see what happens. You might notice how noisy the mind is even without input from television, social media, and newsfeeds. It would also be good to gain some skill in meditation to more skillfully settle mental distractions. When the mind begins to quiet, the need for ego validation diminishes, and we become less addicted to satisfying self-absorbed desire. All our relationships become more healthy and we grow our capacity to love without limit.
Or, maybe I could make a fortune by inducing companies to pay me not to teach meditation. There’s probably an algorithm for that