When Recommendation becomes a threat

Warren smith a 25-years-old man, he sat on a chair with a cup of tea in hand while playing Instagram for some fun after work. ‘I Can’t believe who I found’ he exclaimed when he was in the recommendation page. He casually saw his high school classmate post. In his friend’s following list, he found even more high school friends. His first reaction was so shocked since they have lost contact for ages. He lay and there and played for another hour, the laughter disappeared; instead, he frowned at the screen. He felt amazed and worried at the same time. He wondered how does Instagram know him so well.  

Warren smith is not the only one who found his or her friend on Instagram. Everyone could rebuild their relationships with people who lost contacts and keep in touch with their followers‘Instagram relies on machine learning to create a unique feed for each user.’ according to techcrunch.Each user could experience differently on the platform. It is user targeted, it seems to know every user very well. Instgram algorithem calculate recommendation based on each user’s history of using Instagram, such as their searching history, the content they liked.  These information is useful for algorithm to know who this person interested in and who he is familiar with.

Instagram is able to recommend potential friend for Warren and others since it has attracts a large amount of users. According to the data form App Download and Usage StatisticsUsers, users could be connected together since Instagram is the second-most free download app in the app store. Over 1 billion users use Instagram every months by 2019 Users could be connected tog Using Instagram becomes a social phenomenon in the country with technology services; The more users it have, the more chances they have to connect people together. Instagram has become a widespread tool for people to social and develop their networks. It build a close relationship with users, it might know users better than a friend of his or her. 

Warren Smith felt worried when he realized that Instagram seem to know his network from the recommendation. The truth is his worry is needed, the recommendation function rise the safety issue. According to BBC NEWS a man from the United Stated accused that Instagram helped to kill her daughter. In 2017 Molly Russel, a 14-years-old girl took her own life. When her parents went through her Instagram account, they found materials about suicide. Instagram promoted content about depression and suicide to her, So they believed that Instagram need to be responsible to their daughter’s death, by promoting distressing materials. It raise the safety issue to the Instagram algorithm. It only calculate what user want to see, they do not really care if it is harmful. 

Molly Russel’s story raise the awareness of the threat of recommendation. Is it really trustworthy to consider Instagram as our friend? Kevin is a 21-year-old Asian boy from Korea,who is studying in the university for the management major. when he was asked about user experience, he looked unsatisfied, he put down his cup of water and said seriously ‘ I always see the advertisement come out while I am chill with Instagram. It just makes feel like when we are trusting Instagram, seeing it as a friend, Instagram is just trying to extract revenue from us.’ His experience shows that Instagram’s aim is not to make friend with users, but to make revenue. Since it is user-targeted, some businesses use Instagram to advertise themselves. There are over 25 million businesses on the Instagram according to omnipresence. Instagram will send advertisement based on their algorithm of user preference. Aim for Instagram is make user use Instagram as long as possible. The longer they stayed on the Instagram, the more advertisement they will see. Molly Russel trusted Instagram by allowing it to know her preference, but she the promoted content lead her the way to suicide instead of offering any help. When the algorithm only calculate without any emotions, it becomes important for users to select its promoted content and protect user’s personal information. 

Kevin was going through Instagram recommendation page before he slept Photo:By Author

  In order to protect ourselves from the worrying about the safety, it is important to know how does Instagram actually work to know people’s network. When people find it makes the communication and interaction easier through the likes, comments, repost and direct message, they are more likely to use the app. When they use more of the Instagram, they are essentially giving more personal information to Instagram. Emily is a 34-years-old white woman from the UK, she is working in advertisement company. When the question : why do you use Instagram brought to Emily. She laughed, thought for a few seconds and said with resignation ‘I feel like Instagram is a necessary tool for social, especially for young generations like all my friends and colleagues around me, if I want to have interaction and get along with them, it seems like I need to have a Instagram. Not only Emily, out of 7 of my interviews, 4 of them stated that they use Instagram to social. When users use Instagram to interact with their friend, it allows platform to know their network and graph relationship for users. It seem like users give their information passively to use the platform without to many worries. Users give the chance for Instagram to know them.

Warren Smith felt contradictory when he used the Instagram. The recommendation did help him to find his friends, but extracted his personal data at the same time. The journalism reveals the truth that Instagram recommendation do have risk to affect people’s life. But users have the right to choose what information they want to share to Instagram.