As I began to work on the paper the other night, I put on a few tunes to listen to on YouTube. I started off with AC/DC (you know, something to get you “amped” about working). I just let the autoplay go as I went from page to page, piecing together the next edition. But what really stuck out to me was the next song that came after “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” — “American Pie” by Don McLean. Oh YouTube, I thought you knew me.
Although I don’t dislike the song, going from some hard rock to slow-paced folk is not a great transition. I am not really understanding the algorithm that YouTube is trying to use. My predominant playlist would feature AC/DC, Linkin Park, Slipknot, Megadeth, a few throwbacks to the ‘80s and an occasional hip-hop song. This doesn’t usually scream “Play that song about a horrible plane accident that killed three rock superstars (the 60th anniversary was last Sunday) and talk about the culture of music that would follow.”
I brought this up to Mat Holding Eagle in the newsroom. I don’t understand and I questioned how these internet programs can track us through online searches, email and sites visited, could not realize that if I put on a certain song, I don’t want the followup to be something that is outside that genre.
So, I solved my problem by changing the song to something a little more upbeat and getting back to business. I am happy that we now have the luxury of skipping songs instead of just grin and bearing it. Growing up listening to the radio, sometimes you were stuck with what was on at the time, despite not wanting to listen to it.
After reflecting a little more on my recent grumbling, I realize this — have I accepted the fact that I am constantly being tracked?
Many people I know have tried to dodge “Big Internet” from finding out information about them and what they like. For me, I guess you can say I have given into the system. I don’t make an attempt at hiding my online purchases or use some obscure email so Google doesn’t get my data.
I realize that I live a pretty uninteresting (on the surface) life. If Amazon wants to pop-up on my Facebook feed and suggest that I may like this new pair of shoes or a video game based on recent searches, it’s alright. Growing up in the dawning of social media, I hit a point where I willingly gave up information about myself long before the fear of lack of privacy became the thing.
And maybe that is why I am disappointed with what happened. My millions of clicks on the internet and selections of songs did not tell the video player to go to something that fit the prior song. Is it alright to be mad at a video player?
I feel that in order to stay protected when surfing the world wide web (hahaha, old school reference to the internet) we need to embrace and understand the platforms that we use. I don’t like the fact that these companies are collecting data on me but I am using their sites for free. That I think is lost on several people as they are using these sites, for the most part, by their own free will. If I paid for a subscription to my search engine or music playing device, I would definitely be more than a little angry.
So YouTube, please fix your algorithm to play music that is related. I can only give into Skynet (Terminator reference for you young folks) so much before I finally start making a fuss. Because if technology isn’t going to improve to the point it can read my mind…wait, I don’t want that.
Zach Stich is the managing editor of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal. His column appears each Thursday.