How People Form Folk Theories of Social Media Feeds and What It Means for How We Study Self
Self-presentation is a process that is significantly complicated by the rise of algorithmic social media feeds, which obscure information about one’s audience and environment. User understandings of these systems, and therefore user ability to adapt to them, are limited, and have recently been explored through the lens of folk theories. To date, little is understood of how these theories are formed, and how they tie to the self-presentation process in social media. This paper presents an exploratory look at the folk theory formation process and the interplay between folk theories and self-presentation via a 28-participant interview study. Results suggest that people draw from diverse sources of information when forming folk theories, and that folk theories are more complex, multifaceted and malleable than previously assumed. This highlights the need to integrate folk theories into both social media systems and theories of self-presentation.