019 - 14. A Byte's Life
Part III-B: The Algorithm (continued)
For the next few segments of this series we will take a journey through the Facebook machine as a single byte of data. We will ride the wave all the way from input to output and beyond. Many of the finer details would have been covered in the previous parts of this series, so if you're not caught up...take the time. As is the case with most computer programming, we need to define a few things first. For the purposes of this experiment, we will call our data byte "MAX" and our user will be "PAT". So if you're ready...then so am I...away we go!
The time is 9:16am. The door opens to an echoed room where even the slightest footsteps can be heard in each corner. A combination light/fan switch is flipped to the 'on' position. Flickering for only a second, the room soon becomes illuminated. The footsteps continue along the tile patterned floor. The presence of mirrors along the walls only add to the illumination effect of the florescent lights above. A squeaky door swings open...the footsteps stop. The door swings closed and a loud clunk echoes throughout the room, signifying that this door is now locked. A single sheet of tissue paper is torn from a box bolted to the wall and placed on a porcelain u-shaped mold. The rustling of a buckle followed by a zipper precedes the sound of pants hitting the top of a pair of Pumas. As his knees buckle, Pat positions himself on the bowl. The final step of comfort involves him reaching down into his pant pocket, nestled softly on his feet, to grab his cell phone...an essential component for combatting boredom during this precious time. The light of several hundred pixels illuminate Pat's face as he unlocks the screen and scrolls through the series of apps positioned on his home screen. He is on the hunt for that little lowercase 'f'. Ahh, there it is. As the thumb hovers over the icon, a sudden rush of anxiety flushes through Pat's veins. The thumb comes down, and Pat enters the Facebook matrix.
Ridiculous buildup, and I apologize for the 'Fabio' novel description of a guy taking a morning crap...but as is the case in all of my posts...it proves a point. The simple private act of using the bathroom has now been socialized. The combination of Pat's boredom and addiction to social media force him to take any chance he can get to either post, engage or catch up with the morning's gossip. Back to our bathroom novella.
The app finishes loading and showcases several red numbers on the notification bar...signaling notices and messages that Pat had received since his last visit to Facebook, only a few hours earlier. Drawn to these floating red numbers like a moth to a flame, Pat explores what messages he had missed. In reality, Pat hadn't missed anything. The notification settings on his phone informed Pat that he had notices prior to even opening the app...yet...curiosity still has a stranglehold on his temptations to feel 'caught up'. The thumb makes its way over the red icon and reveals what Pat had already known. Back to the feed, again...as if instinctually, Pat begins to throw his thumbs in an upward motion, slightly touching the phone at the bottom of every swipe. Too fast, and the feed scrolls too quickly...too slow, and patience begins to wear thin. The softest...most gentlest swipe creates the perfect balance of information processing power in Pat's brain to align with his patience. Wait...what's this...a video? Receiving strict orders from Pat's consciousness, the thumbs halt their progress to allow the brain to absorb the contents of a kitten playing with a cotton ball. Thirty seconds go by and the video concludes. A mere half-minute of satisfactory adrenal glands fire away producing empathetic peptides that travel throughout Pat's bloodstream...hitching on to every cell that passes thus altering Pat's mood for an additional thirty seconds. At the conclusion of the video, while Pat's endorphins are spiked, an end card appears offering Pat the option to 'REPLAY' or 'SHARE'. The temptation to share this feeling with his friends overtakes his desire to continue to scroll, and therefore, the 'SHARE' button his selected. A pop up screen appears, as if a guiding hand from the heavens, offering Pat the ability to add his comments, hashtags, tags, gifs and emojis. Something this adorable cannot go without comment or emoji. After all, if it is 'share-worthy' it must be accompanied by a description of feelings and emotion. The thumbs position themselves as a keyboard appears from the base of the phone...and like a poet in the zone, thoughts begin to spew out of Pat's mind through his thumbs and into the text box. "Cutest thing you'll see all day! #kitty #adorable 🐱". As Pat examines the post, and all the spellings of his hashtags, a sudden moment of reality hits... What will Pat's buddies say or think about this? Will he get made fun of for the rest of the day? But then again, that cute girl Jenny he's been having a crush on will definitely notice it...she'll comment on it...like it...even spark a conversation in a private chat? Hmm...what seems to be more worthwhile? ...Jenny...no question about it...it's all about the girl! With that, the POST button is selected and our byte known as 'MAX' is born.
Again, I apologize for the stupid way this buildup is presented, but one of the most important ways to understand Facebook is to use your own experiences as a guiding light. Everything in this post's description is relatable to every one of us...from the 'location' to the feelings of emotions as the app is used. To pretend it is different is only lying to yourself and the work you attempt to pump out on the platform. We will leave it here for today and pick up on MAX on the next post.