Algorithms fuel bad trends

Posted: April 10, 2024

Algorithms fuel bad trends

Ever been scrolling through TikTok or Instagram and you start seeing a lot of people taking part in the same activities or expressing the same ideas? These trends, fashions or popular ideas that spread quickly are increasingly fueled by social media, which are driven by software elements called algorithms. According to Sproutsocial.com, algorithms determine how content is filtered, ranked, selected, and recommended to users. This means that algorithms will show users videos based on what an AI program thinks the user should see.

 Algorithms promote trends because when a video is popular, the algorithm will promote this video to more people, making it more popular in a sort of loop. This creates trends where people will see this popular video and want to wear what the people in the video are wearing or listen to the same music in the video, etc. First-year Maddie Bowring also sees trends being started from social media as well as the patterns of what people wear. 

“At Minnehaha I see people wearing a lot of the same name-brand clothes and I see friend groups with the same things,” said Bowring. “I see these clothes on social media, like TikTok, for example, on a big viral video, and then all of sudden everyone’s wearing them.”

 Some trends are so rooted in communities that they’re overlooked every day from the shoes people wear to what car they drive. Because everyone starts to wear the same things or buy the same thing, we overlook it. 

These trends that promote certain clothing can be used for good and don’t cause harm, but other trends can be very harmful. Trends in the past have actually killed people. There was a trend called the Tide Pod challenge where a person would ingest a laundry detergent packet. When videos of dangerous behavior get attention because of their shock value, some viewers are tempted to make their own shocking videos. 

Underneath the trends are algorithms. This just means that now with social media, these trends can spread around the world for good or for bad faster than ever. However, first-year Eben Habtes sees the positive through the danger and thinks trends can be very beneficial.

“If an upcoming business gains popularity on social media, or influencers promote them, their business can skyrocket because of the traction they get from the advertisement,” Habtes said. “That’s why a lot of companies already run social media accounts.” 

This is why trends end up being good for a lot of people because small businesses or start-up businesses can gain popularity quickly through social media. 

Social media can be helpful for finding things you want to wear and getting ideas for many things and you can follow trends you see online. If you see something trending, remember to think for yourself about the potential impact that following a “dare” or “challenge” would have on yourself and others.

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