on algorithms and internet friends (4/17)

The state of the internet has changed.

At least, people are saying it has. Content creators are desperately searching for their niche in a time where every niche is taken. The algorithm dominates our feeds with content that we never asked to be dominated with.

It doesn’t mean that AI’s taking over the internet, as some people think. It (hopefully) doesn’t mean that internet writers will be out of a job soon.

What it does mean, however, is that people are desperately craving authentic content. People are scouring the internet for content that’s intriguing, relatable, and eye-catching at all times. They’re frantically combing the internet for a content corner they can call their own.

One of the most interesting “niches” I’ve noticed in my time researching has been that of human connection. That of content preaching “real connection”, “humans bonding with humans”, and making life-long friends with people in Twitter comment sections.

People are searching for others, for connection, for community. People are searching for people.

Robert Sternberg, one of the world’s greatest psychologists, coined the term “practical intelligence”, claiming it as the ability of “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.” It’s the way that we react and adapt to the world around us, the way that we speak when we’re spoken to.

In the wake of an artificial intelligence-driven identity crisis, “community” creators are utilizing this practical intelligence to their advantage, and it’s easy to see how – users are flocking to find the solace they so desperately seek. If someone told you at your loneliest that you could make deep, close friends without leaving your couch, wouldn’t you bite at the opportunity too?

For most, it’s refreshing to see an innate part of humanity take its form in content. It’s just as writer Nat Eliason says – we don’t need to reinvent the wheel to get started as creators. Why not start with talking to each other?

But as exciting and genuine as it may sound, the line between connection and commodifying this is surprisingly thin. Most of the creators who plead you to chat or hop on a call with them are guaranteed to lead you to their product the second time around, if not the first. It’s not a connection if it’s a sales lead – it’s a commodity.

And in many ways, it turns the internet into a paradox. The yearning for social connection is undesirable, but it's hard not to feel as if it's the next “internet fad”. Are we really witnessing a new phase of the internet?

True connection isn’t built off of sales pitches, but rather shared experiences and genuine conversation. Eliason, in one of my favorite articles from him, also says that “for writing to resonate with others, it needs to resonate with you first.”

It’s the one question we must ask as creators: are we resonating or are we commodifying?

The future of content depends on our ability to answer this question. If we can’t create ideas that transcend these constraints, the internet might as well become an echo chamber, failing to live up to its potential for creativity and true connection.

The choice is ours. The power lies in our ability to make our creations resonate with something real, something true – first within ourselves, and then with the world.