Why should we care about metrics (numbers) on social media platforms? Professor and artist Ben Grosser discusses the dark side of metrics – and explains why they are so valuable to tech companies.

The full transcript of this video:

So one of the things to keep in mind when it comes to these visible metrics within social media platforms is that when you see how many likes you get after you post something online, how many likes you get starts to teach you what you should post in the first place. If you post a picture of your cat… and that picture gets a hundred likes from your friends, but then the next day you post a… maybe a short text about how hard your day was and only 3 people liked it… That starts to teach you posts more cats, maybe don’t talk so much about whatever it is it’s going on in your day that people aren’t paying attention to. Because the platform is foregrounding this metric, this number of likes you get… it’s really training you: “post things that get more likes”. The entire system is based on people posting things that will be the most engaging to everyone else. Social media platforms are dependent on… not whether we have a good experience; they’re dependent on how much content we give them. The more content we give them, the better it is for them, then they have more information to understand what we like, what we don’t like, and they can use that in advertising to suggest new events… to suggest new friends… to keep us further engaged. So the presence of these numbers is influencing us in all kinds of ways.