By Madison Forster 

The feeds of social media apps are often tailored to the user, so what does that mean? A lot of social media apps run on an algorithm. “Social media algorithms are a way of sorting posts in a users’ feed based on relevancy instead of publish time” ( For example, social media apps like facebook or twitter might put posts from close friends and family first because those are the people you interact with the most often online. Another social media app that this can happen on is youtube, the videos that are recommended to you can be based on what you have watched in the past. Sometimes this can be useful, and cause little harm, but there is certainly no doubt that social media can have a high influence on people. Hannah Fry says in her book, “Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms”, “All around us, algorithms provide a kind of convenient source of authority, an easy way to delegate responsibility; a short cut that we take without thinking” (2018).

There are not exactly “harms” to social media using algorithms to be tailored to the user, most people find it easier to use and navigate. It’s important to note that although it may not be harmful for these sites to use your past behavior when you are scrolling, you should always be aware of what you share online. Anything you share or send online is there forever. More reliable sites such as Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and youtube will use your past searches and those you interact with the most to personalize your feed. This is not to be mistaken for trusting the people you meet and talk to online, the risk of online hackers is always there. If you have a public account where all your information is visible for anyone to find, hackers may be able to use your information to embarrass, blackmail or get into your personal accounts. The simple fact is, there is no evidence of social media using an algorithm that shows any harm that can come to the user.

If you don’t like the idea of social media using your behavior in what you are shown or recommended, there are some things you can do to live without it. Facebook has a setting where you can remove the “recommended” posts.

  • can click the three dots next to “News Feed
  • Click “most recent.”
  • Click “settings,
  • Then click, “see more,”
  • Then “most recent.”

This should remove you from seeing the recommended post, and you might see posts from people you haven’t seen or heard from in a while. With YouTube, turning off “auto play” removes videos being shown to you that would play automatically. With twitter and instagram, there’s an option to see the most recent posts instead of the ones recommended, although if you scroll long enough you will see all the posts up until the last time you scrolled. Overall, there are ways to avoid the algorithm, by changing settings within the app and being aware of how the apps are tailored to the user. When you first download an app, oftentimes there is a question that pops up asking if you “agree to all terms”. You should always read the terms, and change anything in the settings of the app to make sure you are getting what you want out of the social media site.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever noticed that you seem to see the same people’s posts on social media? Why do you think this?
  2. Have you ever been recommended a video on YouTube that you believe was not of interest to you?
  3. When you download an app, have you clicked “agree to all terms”? Have you read all the terms?
  4. If you did not want social media apps to show you things based off what your behavior is on the app, what could you do to change it?


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