The Chronological Disorder

Time is one of those inescapable things about living in this universe as a being like ourselves. We experience the four dimensional bulk as three space dimensions and one time dimension – we can easily walk about on those three space dimensions, but that fourth one, the time one, is a straight arrow always going in one direction. That because of how entropy works in our universe (or at least how we perceive our universe to be). It’s always heading from an ordered state to disorder, and that is an easy way of describing what “time” as a concept is. We are always getting more disordered in the universe. Disorder is difficult to control. Several years ago after reading a lot about entropy, quantum states and the mechanics of entropy as a reason for the universe being the way it is, I came up with a neat little theory as to why we have so many issues with our earphone cords.

Disorder is everywhere in real life and online. It’s hard to control disorder without it being a large amount of expended energy. The only way to make sense of this disorder is to take what we see, the disorder, and make sense of it. It’s impossible to go back in time to reorder moments in our lives, because they’ve always been in that way created by the disorder and chaos of the universe. We have, over hundreds of thousands of years, evolved to understand a concept of time, albeit split into three areas that don’t really exist (past, present, future), and that coping mechanism allows the disorder to be understood. It means we don’t have our minds exploded every time we wake up – we just take each coming second when it comes.

The social networks of our time however have other ideas. Facebook began tampering with our temporal disorder when they introduced the “Top Stories” feature into the Timeline, giving us suggestions and stories we’d “missed” based on algorithms and computer programming trying to work out our disorder for us. Then Twitter tried it with the “While You Were Away” feature, that I am always saying “Dismiss this?” and “Did you like this?” Yes and No respectively. The main issue with this is that is messes up the exact way we have been dealing with disorder in our lives since the moment we took our first breath – keeping it in the order in which the disorder comes to us.

Time is such a stringent constant that it measures everything we have about our life. Our age, the age of what we own, and when we will either own something or get rid of something. It’s always counting down to the inevitable, in before then we just keep plodding away and trying to make sense out of a universe that might have never been intended to be understood. Messing with this is a problem. It makes decisions for us; of course, I am not affected often with this issue because *sits up straight, makes sure everyone is listening* I got rid of Facebook. And if Twitter moved fully to a curated Twitter feed I’d quickly give up on it too. And now the Facebook owned Instagram is thinking about introducing a similar idea.

The basic premise is twofold, with the first point being their reason that they’ll tell you about. They’ll say it’s because we miss stuff on our feed. And yeah, we probably do! That’s the problem with things being disseminated in such a way that is nothing gets priority. If we want to find something out about someone we have to seek it out – I’ve missed pictures Con has posted because it’ll be lost under the other Instagram posts that have been submitted, but it’s my feed and my order and my chronological time line. Getting rid of that doesn’t help bring things I’ve missed to the front, as it just replaces what I’ve missed in one instance with something else. I can only see the first picture on Instagram once, and if it’s something or other I’ve either missed what was put in its place, or I’ve missed the original post that would have been up there. It’s rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

The second reason is obviously adverts. Currently they are posted in between pictures I’ve chosen to get. It’s unobtrusive and as most use non-square sizes I scroll past them immediately. Also, my friends and people I follow don’t normally post Instagram videos shot by professionals as adverts, so they are quite easy to avoid. This non-linear timeline allows the companies to push more “paid for” content to the front under the pretence that you might actually want to see it. If you try and click the “X” on a Twitter advert there isn’t an option to dismiss it because you just don’t want to be seeing it.

The biggest problem with this abandoning of the chronological timeline is the killer – you’re adding disorder. See, the order in which images or updates come in is actually ordered. Yes, not catalogued, but by time it’s ordered in a way we fully understand as humans, and removing that – the only bit of order that we know, and the only bit of order that the social media avalanche has, is utterly insane. Removing control and adding in disorder isn’t a way to make us engage more, it’s going to make us tune out more. I left Facebook for the reason that I was getting nothing like what I wanted. I’d leave Twitter if the basic functionality of the timeline died, and I’d certainly consider giving up Instagram if they decided to make the non-linear timeline a thing – which it sadly looks like it is.

Maybe it is because I grew up on RSS aggregators, with the cascade of timeline and chronological stories. Maybe it is the way my brain is wired. Maybe… just maybe it’s because it’s a terribly idea. I don’t understand why chronological time lines are such a target for these companies. It’s almost like they don’t know what their services are used for, and by whom. As Instagram is the final social network Connie actually uses (she uses it like a blogroll or RSS feed aggregator) she’d stop using it immediately, and she won’t be alone.