When I started using social media, I spent a lot of time on it. To me, it was a kind of cocktail party I could access at any time to see all of the interesting things that my friends were up to and to catch up on their news.
But have you ever opened a social media app and thought that you were losing your marbles? It happens to me all the time.
Something changed over the years that has really cut back on my usage and my overall interest. The turning point for me was when someone decided that showing “top news” or “most relevant” posts rather than “most recent” posts should be the default for certain apps.
Since then, there have been days when I have opened up a social media app, seeking a relaxing break from a busy day, and I truly thought that my app was gaslighting me.
In the sequence presented by Facebook, one friend posted pictures at the airport, then on a beach, then getting ready to leave the house, then in the hotel room, then back on the beach, then stuck on the tarmac, then waiting for the Uber to take them to the airport, then back on the beach.
Another friend posted pictures of a several-day multi-stop European tour. Thanks to the app, the order in which they appeared was so messed up, I needed Gravol just to follow the order of their itinerary.
A friend’s pictures of a major home renovation project, rearranged by Facebook, had me thinking that they tore it down and started over four times.
But the out-of-sequence thing also had its very awkward moments too when a friend posted about a pet that wasn’t doing well (and me not realizing it was a few days ago) and I posted “sending good vibes your way” only to find out in another rearranged post that the pet had already passed on.
I genuinely appreciate the kind and generous support when a friend sends me a “like” on a blog post. But when several “likes” or comments appear on one that I posted several weeks or months ago I can’t help but wonder why the algorithm is only showing it now.
Where the rearranging of posts also falls flat is when I see an advertisement for a one day sale at one of my favourite stores… three days late. If I was a business owner who paid for that advertising, I’d be angry.
The same thing happened when my nearby gluten-free bakery announced on social media that they were featuring my favourite double chocolate doughnuts on Sunday, and the post only appeared the following Wednesday. I suppose my waistline should be thankful for this one, but that was a lost sale and a missed opportunity.
I know that there is a way for the user to rearrange the order chronologically in Facebook. The last time that I tried it, it worked, but it didn’t stay that way the next time I accessed the app.
Plus, my old iPad seemingly gets indigestion whenever I use that button and shows that little swirly thing on screen while it thinks about it.
But when the button is not easy to find and seems to relocate with different versions of the app, that is when discouragement set in for me.
For someone who thrives on certainty, logic and order, this meddling with the sequence of friends’ posts is the rain on my metaphoric parade. That was when my usage started dropping.
If executives and developers are so concerned with the user experience, I wish that they would allow the user to set the default and for it to stay that way until the user resets it. If some folks enjoy the “Top stories” approach, then that should be their decision. If others prefer chronological order, then let that be up to them.
I am not a fan of being led down a path that makes it difficult to enjoy stories in the way that makes the most sense to me. I also object to jumping through extra hoops to make it so.
To me it really boils down to storytelling. If I posted a blog that was told completely out of sequence, I don’t think I’d have many readers. Stories need structure and chronology to unfold in a way that will relate to the reader.
In my opinion, to arbitrarily rejig the order of appearance of posts is an insult to the story teller as well as to the reader.
When algorithms switch up the chronology of storytelling to a point where we have to rearrange the parts for the story to make sense, the party is over for me.
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