Teens on Tech is an ongoing series with our partners, My Digital Tat2, to share adolescents’ perspectives on their digital worlds.

As a dedicated member of his high school’s speech club, Eric Lee has always been interested in the ways that people communicate – particularly online. In this article, he discusses his perspective on online echo chambers and social media curation algorithms.

         “I became interested in this topic when I first got on TikTok and when I was going through the Instagram Explore page,” Eric explains. “I found the pages were scarily catered to me, and kept being more catered the more I used them. I was interested in finding out about how exactly they worked.”  

         In the below video, Eric describes some of his findings on how algorithms select the content they present to users. To learn more about how the algorithms for the TikTok For-You page, the Instagram Feed & Explore page, and the Twitter feed worked, he sought out press releases from their respective companies. While he could only find a release on the For-You page algorithm from Tiktok, he then turned to recent empirical articles and news articles.  

         “Something that surprised me about this was that all of the different platforms I looked at had a similar structure in how they carried out the customization,” he said. “But they all had the same basic concept of personalizing.”  

         While he felt that few people – including himself – actually knew how these algorithms worked, he thought that there was a generally high awareness of the existence of such algorithms among his friends, classmates, and other teens.

         “I think that adults should know that teens are aware of these algorithms,” he said. “They might not know how it works fully, but they know that something like that exists and the basic idea that the more you interact with something, the more you’re going to see it on your algorithm. And that’s something that adults should also take note on and think about too.”

Eric is a senior at Monta Vista High School and a member of My Digital TAT2’s High School Advisory Board program. His many hobbies include participating in competitive speech and playing the violin, and his interests lie in history, government, and politics. As an avid user of various online platforms, Eric is interested in learning more about social media and its role in our increasingly connected world.