Or: it’s not social media, it’s just media. This explainer from Cal Newport on Facebook/Instagram feeling the need to pivot towards TikTok’s methods makes one thing very clear:
TikTok, by contrast, doesn’t depend on …painstakingly accumulated social data. It instead deploys a simple but brutally effective machine learning loop onto the pool of all available videos on its platform. By observing the viewing behavior of individual users, this loop can quickly determine exactly which videos will most engage them; no friends, retweets, shares, or favorites required.
What he describes there is, to my eyes, actually an upgraded TiVo box. If you’ve ever used a TiVo box, you know this experience – you watch a crime show one time, and two days later it’s recorded five other crime shows for you because it thinks you like crime shows now. That isn’t social media. That’s just media. Clever television.