Children and teenagers are now so hooked on social media that they’re refusing to search the internet for information – and will instead rely on algorithms to spoon feed content for them to watch.
This algorithm, which is designed by big tech companies to fuel users customized content, not only keeps teens addicted to social media, but it’s making them feel worse about themselves, according to a report by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate.
Algorithms are mathematical formulae which monitor the types of content people click on. They then tailor what social media users are shown on app homepages, in a bid to serve up more of what they want to watch.
TikTok‘s For You Page (usually shortened to fyp) and Instagram‘s homepage are prime examples, and will serve up users a limitless, personalized stream of videos and pictures that then can endlessly refresh.
That has sparked fears young people are losing the very curiosity that led generations before them to seek out musicians, authors and artists they enjoyed.
As a result, these algorithms are also feared to be depriving youngsters of the joy of discovering something they love, then developing a passion for it.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, who has introduced a bipartisan bill to protect young people on social media in April, visited a Connecticut high school to discuss the role that social media plays in their daily lives and in their mental health.
One of the most serious dangerous effects of minors’ growing addiction to social media that he found was the ‘death of exploration, trial and error and discovery,’ Murphy said in a New York Times article.
‘Algorithmic recommendations now do the work of discovering and pursuing interests, finding community and learning about the world,’ he said.
‘Kids today are, simply put, not learning how to be curious, critical adults — and they don’t seem to know what they’ve lost,’ he added
According to the report, users could be served content related to suicide less than three minutes after opening TikTok – and just minutes after that, they could come across accounts promoting eating disorder content. From there, the cycle continues.
Murphy said the kids he spoke to were unaware that the algorithms have been designed to make them unhappy in order to keep them on the app.
But social media companies are fully aware that content which generates ‘unhappy’ feelings keeps users engaged, Murphy said in the article. It’s also killing their drive to explore what they like and don’t like.