Living in a Digital Wasteland

by Adeline Ferolo

How you learn about events happening in the world may entirely depend upon algorithms…

6:30 AM

Bethany_22 posted to their story

Read this infographic on classist behavior. The one explaining why going vegan is a privilege really resonates.

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Just started sketching and inking tattoos, check out my new tattoo account here. DM if you’re interested !!

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Go like my friend’s post she is really hawt <<33

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Why is no one talking about the Uyghurs in China?

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I just opened Instagram.

Every morning, for the past five years of my relatively short life, this relentless flood of information has greeted me. As a teenager, I needed to open Instagram in the morning. What if I missed something; from midnight confessions spilled by the high school drama queen or the next broken-hearted anthem released by Taylor Swift? I couldn’t not know every single possible incident that occurred in the eight hours I’d been unconscious. What do you expect? I’m eighteen years old, my life pretty much existed on the Internet.

I learn about the world via Instagram; for better, worse, or normal, it is my main source of information. How’d I hear about the upcoming movie, House of Gucci? First read about it on the “explore” page of my Instagram feed accompanied with leaked paparazzi photos of Adam Driver and Lady Gaga. Angry Trump supporters storming the Capital on a chilly January afternoon? Saw it on The New York Times Instagram story. If I didn’t see it on Instagram, it simply did not exist in my reality. In retrospect, this realization is terrifying. Especially considering Instagram uses an algorithm to filter through the content it thinks you will engage with to keep your attention. And I wouldn’t be the first to admit the algorithm works.

Begrudgingly, I also confess I have spent up to three hours on Instagram in one sitting. In three hours, you could drive from Peoria to Chicago, or play three volleyball games—but that’s in the physical world. In three hours on Instagram, I can learn how to cook vodka pasta from Gigi Hadid, advocate for (insert name) humanitarian crisis, practice Spanish with a telenovela star, and plan out my entire week of outfits inspired by 2000’s fashion trends. Every minute spent in the digital world equates to approximately 10 minutes in the real world, according to my very precise (and soundly derived) calculations. The volume of information consumed by simply opening Instagram is overwhelming, and honestly, unhealthy. No human is mentally equipped to process the magnitude of an Instagram feed because it was built by robots, for robots. Nevertheless, every day I resign myself to being said robot in the eyes of capitalism, log onto Instagram, and ingest a deplorable amount of posts, stories, and quirky captions. I am addicted to it.

“Hello. My name is Adeline. And I am addicted to liking pictures of unattainable human lifestyles promoted by robots.” Unfortunately, not only am I obsessed with scrolling infinitely upwards, refreshing my feed for the latest updates, but I am also obsessed with creating content for the robots to promote. With the line between our digital and physical worlds virtually (pun intended) non-existent, to prove we have friends, we need to post on our digital profiles. But this must be done in an aesthetically pleasing format. Obligatory photoshoots and color-coordinated outfits are now the norm when a friend group hangs out. The last time someone haphazardly posted to social media without considering the ramifications to their digital persona coincides with Tom Holland inviting me to the Spider-Man: Homecoming premiere (clearly never happened in either case). Now, with the robots in charge, we must venture out into the scary, screen-less world and forage for Instagram-worthy content. The strangest products and weirdest experiences have been created to bridge the gap between the physical and digital. Baby-goat yoga, the cronut (a cross between… ugh, you know what it is), the selfie… these inventions were all created with the intention of going viral on social media.

If you attempt to explain the concept of Instagram to someone born circa 1900 (kudos if they’re rocking 122 years old btw), I’m absolutely positive they would assume you are an alien. Or maybe an alien disguised as their grandchild. With the lightning-fast pace of Instagram introducing new trends every minute, the average 18-year-old user has probably accumulated the same amount of information as their grandparents would with five lifetimes. Ultimately, the robots are responsible for accelerating the world light years beyond what any human could possibly imagine, in only a decade. And considering the robots are not leaving anytime soon, might as well…

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It is 6:45 AM.

About Adeline Ferolo

Stories, arguably, are the most underrated form of currency that floods the digital world, whether through highlighted Instagram posts or viral YouTube videos. As an incoming freshman at New York University’s dramatic writing program, Adeline Ferolo aims to express herself and the issues closest to her authentically through engaging storytelling. Her interests range across many creative outlets—as a beginner photographer exploring digital and film cameras, as a host of The Movie Majors Podcast, and as a writer for Giving Voice. Adeline plans to continue to create and communicate stories in both her academic and personal life while in college.