Rabid consumerism applies to big tech too

My ex-husband was a wildlife biologist who used to talk about rabid consumerism being the bane of the environmental movement. We humans, especially Americans, love to buy stuff, use stuff, and then throw it away. The resources used to make the stuff strips the Earth of raw materials, and then our landfills clog up with all the discarded packaging, unused products, outdated electronics, and other materials. Toxins leach into the water table. Animals get trapped in plastic bags and soda-can rings. But we have to keep using more because more is better. Right?

I bring this up now because last week I attended a webinar on the new Facebook and Instagram algorithms and how they affect business pages. Big tech has the same rules as any other manufacturer: Get the customer to consume as much of the product as possible.

According to the webinar, the new algorithms are designed to keep users on the platform as long as possible. Links leading users away from the platform—such as YouTube videos, web pages, and news articles—move down in the algorithm. Links leading to other Facebook/IG pages get boosted. Photos rank pretty high because they attract attention, and live videos rank the highest because they command the user’s attention for a period of time.

Here’s the kicker, though: Business pages that post often (at least once a week, preferably once a day or more), get preference over pages that don’t post often. And it should be at predictable times. For example, every Tuesday at 6 p.m. is good, but every day at 6 p.m. is even better.

As I was planning my upcoming YouTube channel, I learned that platform has similar rules. They want YouTubers to post at least once a week, for at least 3 minutes. I realize that YouTube has replaced mainstream television entertainment, but even Netflix seasons only last 10 to 23 episodes per year. YouTube wants a minimum of 52 if you want to monetize your channel.

What I’m seeing as a result is recycled information. For instance, I have been a fan of Melissa Maker’s Clean My Space channel for the past four years. She has five videos on the uses of baking soda, plus other videos where she uses baking soda to clean laundry, bathtubs, grout, ovens, mattresses, and many other household items. And healthy homecook Bobby Parish’s FlavCity channel has 711 videos, at least 12 of which are Costco shopping hauls, and four show him cooking butter basted chicken breasts with blistered green beans.

The ones that bug me the most, though, are the makeup tutorials. I’ve been trying to find a look that compliments the mood I’m trying to evoke in my upcoming Rivervine YouTube channel, yet takes into consideration I’m over 50 and wear glasses. But as I was binge watching the various channels, I was appalled at how many different products these ladies were using at one sitting. I thought to myself, “There is no way I’m putting on three different concealers, three kinds of blush, and all these other layers of cosmetics.” It really emphasized how much women really buy into this need to purchase so many products.

It’s bad enough that we’re wasting money on these fads, but go back to the discussion about resources required to manufacture these products, and then package the products, and finally discard the products. It’s egregious, especially when we’re buying so much online; we’re now adding to the packaging problem. And if we buy via Amazon or other big outlet, we’re taking sales away from local businesses.

Many of these YouTubers and other social media influencers have their own shops on Amazon. They make money by being affiliates of the companies they promote. That’s a wonderful way to add to one’s revenue stream, but if the influencer is publicizing a big-name brand instead of a small business, that only adds to the discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots.

When I look at this whole new economic ecosystem—realizing I’m competing for spots in Facebook’s news feed and trying to monetize my upcoming YouTube channel—I see the same problems we had before: You have to compel your followers to consume your product.

It doesn’t matter if you have relevant news every evening at 6 p.m. You have to post something, even if it’s stupid or redundant. If you don’t, you’ll drop in the algorithms. What’s worse is those who post every day, whether they have valuable information or not, are going to overshadow pages that do have important information to share but just haven’t posted as often or at consistent intervals. Or maybe they didn’t have a photo to grab users’ attention. Heaven forbid they post a notable link that takes readers off the platform.

This leads me to the same answer I always come up with: It’s on us to do the right thing.

As consumers, we need to make conscientious choices. As business owners, we need to deny the urge to make money at the cost of the greater good. There is no government solution to this problem. Only we as individuals can make the world equitable and just.

Published by Gwen Clayton

Gwen Clayton is a freelance writer living in Ashland, Kentucky. She is the former editor of the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, and has written for numerous other publications since 1986. Her first book, the paranormal thriller "Fermata Cellars," was published in 2016, and her Bible-inspired short story, "Purr: A story of love, lions and a Hebrew named Daniel," was released in 2019. She recently finished writing, "Zinfandel’s Grimoire," which is the sequel to 'Fermata;' that book is in the editing and design phase of publication. Her current works in progress include the third book in the Rivervine Trilogy, tentatively titled, "Comatis Unveiled," and the nonfiction, "Dragon's Poker Table: A rocker chick's breast cancer journey." Her books are independently published under the imprint, Rivervine LLC. In addition to writing books, Clayton contracts as a copywriter for local, small businesses.

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