If a child asked you for an ice cream (something that happens a lot in my household!), would you give them one, and then another, and then another 10? Social media algorithms are constantly serving us more of what we want … and it’s not healthy. This approach is not the cause but has been a contributor to divisions in the world.
The social media ice cream
Bigger is not better!
When thinking in UX (user experience) terms you might think that giving users more of what they want is the best approach. But if you think in human development terms it does not make sense, and there’s the dilemma.
In order to develop and grow, we need to challenge ourselves and work at it. Learning a new skill like a language or musical instrument has been proven to improve neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to form new neural connections. The saying that ‘travel broadens the mind’ reflects the fact that new experiences, even if they are uncomfortable, are valuable …. maybe even life changing.
Understand the affect of algorithms
Changing social media algorithms are beyond our control. However if we understand how they work, and how they affect us, perhaps we can ensure that products like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (sorry, I’m too old for Instagram) are useful tools that can promote understanding, instead of attention-sucking services that can enable unhealthy division.
Needs and wants
So could we say that UX is about giving people what they need, instead of what they want? I’m going to have to work on an answer to that. All I can say now is that it’s a fine balance and factors other than time spent on a site, in order to maximise advertising dollars or data gathering, should be taken into account.