Yesterday, I walked past a restaurant, and literally every customer was on their phone.
There was minimal conversation, minimal eating even, just blank stares at screens.
It was at this moment that I decided that our reality is now kind of dystopic, like an episode of Black Mirror.
And we’re so caught up in it, that we don’t really notice that things are a bit off, that we’re a bit too dependent on technology and smartphones.
Who can blame us? This was all by design.
The internet is so integrated into our lives that algorithms have the power to influence our decisions without us even realizing it.
This can be concerning, especially now that corporate advertisers and internet trolls have taken full advantage.
Here are a few signs algorithms might be excessively dictating your life choices:
1) You live in a bubble of thought
As awesome as social media is, one of its downfalls is that it creates a sort of echo chamber of thought.
Our feeds consist of news and posts that reinforce existing beliefs, biases, and interests.
This works to limit perspectives and derail balance.
Soon enough, we keep going down that rabbit hole, possibly picking up some outrageous views along the way.
The more impressionable minds become susceptible to fake news, out-of-context propaganda, or alarmist, clickbait-y headlines.
I think this phenomenon was most evident during the dark locked-down days of the pandemic.
People were bored, mostly indoors, and therefore online far more than average.
This meant idly scrolling for hours at a time or watching related video after related video on YouTube.
With great influence, sometimes comes extreme behavior.
2) You impulse buy
Do you find yourself spending an unwanted amount of time and money on impulse shopping online?
If you use a good chunk of your monthly paycheck on things you don’t actually need, it’s wise to begin delving a little deeper.
Sometimes, we can be so entranced by a post that we end up shelling out, even when we had no prior intent to do so, only to regret it later.
This means a constant flow of unessential packages arriving at our doorsteps.
My ex would receive a new package from Amazon on an almost daily basis. Often, multiple packages would arrive in a single day.
Was she spending wisely on things she needed? Not really.
From my assessment, the majority of her purchases were forgotten after the initial novelty, becoming glorified apartment decor, or fixtures in our overflowing storage room.
In her case, the algorithm won, while her savings account dwindled.
3) You dine in trendy/viral places
If you have a social media account, you’ll know that food content is everywhere.
TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube are saturated with posts by aspiring food influencers depicting their dining experiences via trendy restaurants, bars, and recipes.
As someone who really enjoys food, my advice is to take these posts with a grain of salt.
It’s been my experience that places with a lot of hype, that have gone viral, are often just that: hype.
One can typically expect lengthy queues and overpriced, ordinary food and drink, at these tourist trap-like establishments.
Meanwhile, there’s a decent chance that the place down the road, with a third as many customers, will turn out to be a far more authentic, tastier, and all-around more fulfilling experience.
So while viral dining posts can sometimes live up to the hype, usually they do not.
Like anything on the World Wide Web, when it comes to eating, some independent research is encouraged.
4) You consume limited media
Here’s the thing: algorithms can be incredibly limiting in scope yet simultaneously play a major role in shaping cultural consumption.
This applies to the content of traditional media forms like music, TV shows, and movies.
Sure, mainstream stuff can be great too, but your feed suggestions will have you thinking that the Barbie movie, Taylor Swift, Drake, the Kardashians, Stranger Things, et al. are the only worthy forms of entertainment available.
This mindset might discourage you from seeking out new, oft more gratifying content independently.
5) You let the algorithm create your daily routines
As you may have gathered by now, it’s easy to become dependent on the internet and its infinite algorithms.
If your day-to-day judgment is being clouded by apps, then it’s time to take a step back and rethink this behavior.
While it is true that apps exist to make our lives easier, they can also stifle independence.
When to wake up, when to eat, what route to take, when to take breaks, apps can take care of all that for us–but at that same time, this convenience can stagnate our decision-making autonomy, one of the core tenets that make us human.
6) You limit your work opportunities
Since the internet can fast-track tasks, it can also make us lazier, especially when we’re already predisposed to laziness.
Hence, we might only consider job positions that are suggested by job-matching sites instead of assertively looking for them.
Speaking from experience, it can take hundreds of applications, countless follow-ups, and tirelessly asking around to get a decent work opportunity.
So when you only go as far as the algorithm, with the mindset “Well, I tried, I did my part,” don’t expect to score the job of your dreams anytime soon.
7) You make questionable financial decisions
In case you haven’t noticed, there are literally millions of scams on the internet.
Grifters and conmen have found quite a comfortable home online, spreading fraudulence in the form of get-rich-quick schemes, poor investment advice, or toxic, unsustainable “hustle” propaganda.
These sharks are digitally ubiquitous, often have large followings, and confidently share financial guidance like they’re the next Buffet or Bezos.
Be on your guard.
There’s almost always a dubious motive behind these seemingly altruistic facades.
If you want to get rich, as we all do, you’re better off consulting with real-life financial pros, or friends or family who are smart with money, not some phony on your Instagram reels claiming to be an ‘alpha.’
8) Your love life is affected
The algorithm can also create unrealistic standards for our love lives. Shocker, right?
Think of the viral posts of “real-life” lovers in fairytale-like circumstances, or your friend and their mate living like the modern-day Romeo and Juliet, or the conventionally attractive models prancing through all of our feeds.
As we search for that unattainable partner, we might bypass many key romantic opportunities that “don’t all tick the boxes.”
This mentality can also disrupt existing relationships, whether happy or not, as we tend to compare our own situations to the carefully curated posts we see on Instagram.
Comparison is the thief of joy after all.
When it comes to your love life (and frankly, your life in general), don’t let the algorithm dictate your choices.
Do what makes you happy deep down. If that means takes taking time off social media, so be it.
Having said all that, I’d still say that the evolution of technology is still generally a positive thing.
But conventional wisdom tells us that too much of a good thing can have adverse effects.
So in this almost completely digital era, it’s essential to maintain balance.
Actively take advantage of technology’s benefits but know your limits; all the while, still valuing your development as a person… offline.
As hard as it is to believe: the digital world still isn’t the real world. Far from it.
We have to be mindful of making that distinction.