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Opinion Editorials

Should the social media giants be killing the culture of chronology?

“Most Recent” on Facebook and “Live” on Twitter are the first things I click when I login to my social media accounts, yet my social media perusing habits will soon be changing. The social media gods have decided that instead of listing content chronologically that I should care more about what my friends think is important, instead.

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Instagram on the bandwagon

“Most Recent” on Facebook and “Live” on Twitter are the first things I click when I login to my social media accounts, yet my social media perusing habits will soon be changing. The social media gods have decided that instead of listing content chronologically that I should care more about what my friends think is important, instead.

First Facebook, then Twitter, and now it appears Instagram is set to follow suit into the world of the non-chronological timelines. With Instagram poised to become the next big opportunity for advertising on social media, surpassing Facebook and Twitter, it’s natural that they’d be looking to monetize their popularity as much as possible.

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Maybe this is something we want…

In theory, a fancy algorithm that selects which stories, posts, or in Instagram’s case, photos, that are most interesting to me should be useful, and welcomed. Based on the likes of my friends, and the past interactions I’ve had on Instagram, the algorithm weeds out the posts I most likely don’t want to see. I have to admit, there is some reasoning to it – if I never like a business’ or individual’s photos then why would I want to see them? Why not just remove that distraction from my feed?

When I followed that business, I really did want to follow them

The problem is by curating my feed into something you think I want Instagram is actually removing exactly what I liked best about the platform – the ability to see a variety of different photos, all the time. When Facebook started relying on the formula to determine what was most valuable to me, it began filtering things that were indeed very valuable to me.

When I “like” or “follow” a business it’s because I want to see updates, photos, and specials that those businesses offer. When I “friend” someone I know, it’s because I am interested in the updates and photos they share. Instead of automatically removing the things that are suspected to be “uninteresting”, instead let me decide what I do and don’t want to see.

Don’t remove, add more options

I would encourage social media platforms to provide more filtering options, including an all-everything chronological option, as there are times when I want to see everything just as there are times when an overview, or “best of” snapshot would be best. By providing these options for filtering it puts me in control of the content I consume and I enjoy the ability to decide what I see. While this algorithm based, non-chronological filtering is touted as something that we should want, as something meant to give us exactly what we want to see and filter out the noise, it’s actually a guise.

All about that money

In reality, this new formula is a ploy to force the hand of businesses to spend more and more and more money on social media advertising if they want to ensure their content is being seen. As a businessperson, I can’t say I blame them, as the reasoning is genius. With 88.2% of Americans reporting having a social media account, the advertising dollars are there for the taking.

Yet, as someone who has worked in small business for over 10 years, I think this strategy is detrimental to growing businesses with small budgets. While social media has historically been the perfect platform for growing small businesses, algorithms that are influenced by money will ultimately squeeze out the little guys.

Keep it real, yo

So, from a moral, small-business focused standpoint and from a consumer annoyance standpoint I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Instagram doesn’t travel the exact path as Facebook. I’m sure I’m not the only one that hopes to maintain more control over the content I receive and push out without the need to buy the attention of my customers, or be infiltrated with purchased content that isn’t relevant. Although, I have to admit, a few less post-workout pictures, wouldn’t be terrible, either.

#Chronology

Megan Noel, a veteran ex-educator with a PhD in Early Childhood Education, enjoys researching life through the eyes of her two young children, while writing about her family’s adventures on IndywithKids.com. With a nearly a decade in small business and marketing, this freelance writer spends most evenings pouring over new ideas and writing articles, while indulging in good food and better wine.

Business Finance

How to survive a recession in the modern economy

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Advice about surviving a recession is common these days, but its intended audience can leave a large gap in application.

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recession squeeze

There’s no question of whether or not we’re in a recession right now, and while some may debate the severity of this recession in comparison to the last major one, there are undoubtedly some parallels–something Next Avenue’s Elizabeth White highlights in her advice on planning for the next few months (or years).

Among White’s musings are actionable strategies that involve forecasting for future layoffs, anticipating age discrimination, and swallowing one’s ego in regards to labor worth and government benefits like unemployment.

White isn’t wrong. It’s exceptionally important to plan for the future as much as possible–even when that plan undergoes major paradigm shifts a few times a week, at best–and if you can reduce your spending at all, that’s a pretty major part of your planning that doesn’t necessarily have to be subjected to those weekly changes.

However, White also approaches the issue of a recession from an angle that assumes a few things about the audience–that they’re middle-aged, relatively established in their occupation, and about to be unemployed for years at a time. These are, of course, completely reasonable assumptions to make…but they don’t apply to a pretty large subset of the current workforce.

We’d like to look at a different angle, one from which everything is a gig, unemployment benefits aren’t guaranteed, and long-term savings are a laughable concept at best.

White’s advice vis-a-vis spending is spot-on–cancelling literally everything you can to avoid recurring charges, pausing all non-essential memberships (yes, that includes Netflix), and downgrading your phone plan–it’s something that transcends generational boundaries.

In fact, it’s even more important for this generation than White’s because of how frail our savings accounts really are. This means that some of White’s advice–i.e., plan for being unemployed for years–isn’t really feasible for a lot of us.

It means that taking literally any job, benefit, handout, or circumstantial support that we can find is mandatory, regardless of setbacks. It means that White’s point of “getting off the throne” isn’t extreme enough–the throne needs to be abolished entirely, and survival mode needs to be implemented immediately.

We’re not a generation that’s flying all over the place for work, investing in real estate because it’s there, and taking an appropriate amount of paid time off because we can; we’re a generation of scrappy, gig economy-based, paycheck-to-paycheck-living, student debt-encumbered individuals who were, are, and will continue to be woefully unprepared for the parameters of a post-COVID world.

If you’re preparing to be unemployed, you’re recently unemployed, or you even think you might undergo unemployment at some point in your life, start scrapping your expenses and adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Anything goes.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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