eli5 What is algorithm in social media?


Like YT algorithm, tiktok algorithm,etc.

In: 0

It’s the software that determines which content gets shown/recommend to which users. This is super important because if your content doesn’t make it to the recommendations, it won’t get views/interaction

Social media that has a “discovery mode” or a “recommended” list or anything like it needs to have some method of deciding what gets displayed. While they could theoretically just have a person going through and deciding what is shown, companies have had better returns when each of these ‘feeds’ are personalized to each user; a mother of a 5 month old is more likely to pay attention to a review for diapers than a 16 year old male, for example. So the company develops an “algorithm” (which is just a catch-all term for math formulas being applied to collected data) that weighs a bunch of measurements, such as user age and reported gender, and puts things in their feed that is more likely to engage the user and keep them on the website.

An algorithm in general is just like a recipe. It tells the computer how to do a certain thing.

In the context of YouTube, Facebook, Tiktok, etc… the “algorithms” specifically relate to how those sites decide how to look at what you do, how to look at what your friends do, how to do whatever, in order to show you content that will cause you to spend more time on their platform, or even to filter out some content while promoting some other content, to give you the impression that more people think one thing or another. This is where those algorithms can become dangerous and toxic.

I think the best way I can give a parallel is…

Think about a friend you have who, after you showed them a few funny videos, keeps sending you videos similar to what you’ve shown them. Sometimes, they nail it, and you like what they show you, sometimes they show you a very bad youtube poop and you’re wondering why you’re friend with them.

An algorhythm is essentially that, but without having any other job than that: It just looks at what you watched, what you reacted with, and tries to serve you new videos that are in similar veins to what you already watched, sometimes stufd you’ve already watched a few times if it notices you like revisiting a few of the best pieces. ***They don’t always get it right, but god bless, they are trying the best they can to make both you and their owner happy.***

Facebook/twitter/instagram algorhythms do the same, for their own content types.

An algorithm is just a bunch of code.

So, the Youtube algorithm is a bunch of code that takes as its input the videos you’ve watched, and how long you watched them for, and that sort of thing, and its output is the video it recommends you. The videos that show up on your sidebar and homepage.

They don’t say exactly how it works because they don’t want people to try to cheat, but people are always trying to guess. So for example if people think the algorithm seems to be recommending shorter videos to people, then creators might try to make more short videos.