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Social Media Algorithms and Your Mental Health

If you are on major social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram you may have heard the word “algorithm” within the past few years. It sounds like an important word, and it can even be more difficult explaining what an algorithm actually is.

I am not close to being a computer science expert, but in my very minimal (google) research, an algorithm reviews and gathers information on content posted by your friends, people you follow, groups you are apart of, things you "like," etc. Depending on the user, this could translate into gathering information on possibly thousands of posts. Then, "magically" and eerily from the information gathered from all these posts, the algorithm chooses the posts/content that you as a user are likely to view as meaningful or important. As a result a user may see a significantly limited number of posts daily. My purpose is not to explain the "ins and outs" of social media algorithms (partly because I don’t fully understand them), but more so to draw out the impact algorithms can have on us emotionally. These algorithms not only show you less content, but it shows your “friends” less content, which could ultimately mean your posts will not be seen by a large number of people. This fact could potentially cause legitimate headaches, especially if social media is a primary way one uses to market, brand or advertise their business, services, talent, etc. Unless of course you buy tools to help you market yourself to a larger audience (you see the "set up"). Furthermore, let's address another headache algorithms can cause. Fewer likes, fewer shares, and fewer comments can all hit a nerve in us emotionally if we aren’t careful or aware. Unproductive thoughts of whether or not people “support” you may arise, anxiety of what exactly to post may be common, and exhaustion from constantly checking your “likes” may become your new "favorite" hobby. If those examples seem very precise, it’s because I have experienced all of them (and then some). I have witnessed in my own life, how my heart and motives went from wanting to encourage others to constantly thinking of the next “dope” outfit or photo-shoot like picture to post. I went from liberty to share whatever to wondering why people got more likes on their posts than I did. I even questioned if people really liked me and I wondered if I was “interesting enough?” It may appear silly to some (even myself), but truthfully these instances have become a reality for many. So if my “humiliation” can be a bridge and aide to someone’s struggle I will gladly accept it (see 2 Cor. 1:3-4). So here is some advice to those who are struggling and who have “lost themselves” to social media algorithms. 1) Inspire and motivate others because it is in your DNA to do so- not because you are pressured to do so.

2) Carry out your calling without conditions. (THAT PART). 3) Likes and followers can maybe measure a sense of your popularity, but they never can measure your value and impact. 4) Cling to integrity even when your feelings want quick fixes. I am not saying to forget that algorithms exist, but I am saying that algorithms can’t determine why you exist! Be careful of letting trivial things define who you are. Those things are not the author of your worth and purpose.


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