One of the problems with Distraction Unlimited is that once you’ve watched one film on a particular topic, the algorithm will deliver more films on that topic. If enough other people are watching films on a particular topic, the algorithm will recommend those films as well. Right now, that means a whole lot of the “popularity based” recommendations are about epidemics, quarantines, and escaped, plague-carrying zombie monkeys. No, don’t ask me. Go get a popular person to explain it.
And then, there are “my” recommendations.
If I bought a calendar last week, Distraction Unlimited will assume that I want to buy six more this week. If I watched a World War II documentary last week, Distraction Unlimited will recommend more and more of them. If you remember your history, you’ll know that World War II was not exactly the most cheerful time in history.
I think the downhill slide started when I watched–no, actually bought— a copy of “Downfall.” It’s a Bruno Ganz movie about the last days in Hitler’s bunker. Then, Distraction Unlimited recommended another World War II movie… and another one… And now, it’s giving a row of recommendations labeled “Holocaust Movies.”
One of the things that I love–and hate–about the internet is that everybody has their own internet. It’s different for everybody. Personalized advertising. Location based news. Retailers who remember your personal preferences. Never mind the Big-Brother type issues. Never mind the fact that Distraction Unlimited is actively trying to sell you things.
With a plague going on… with everybody locked in their homes watching movies like Contagion and Outbreak… it’s incredibly important to remember that you are creating your own internet. The world you see through the internet window is not objectively true. Not everyone sees the same internet.
If you watch a few World War II movies, the internet will recommend more World War II movies. Watch a few happy movies… or sad movies… or scary movies… and the internet will recommend more of the same.
It will tailor the advertising to those “preferences.” They will follow you from one site to the next.
Those preferences will shape the world you are shown.
It’s especially important to remember that, right now. Don’t get surrounded. Don’t let an infinite variety of death and destruction, plague and pestilence movies get pumped into your world. We get enough misery in the store closings, self-isolation, and news casts. If watching 28 Days Later isn’t making you feel better…
Watching a few happy movies can reset the algorithms remarkably quickly. Deliberately, consciously, watch other things. Feed the algorithm the data that will get the results that you want.