Imagine if each day we all started from the same place.
Instead of incentivizing users to seek popularity and engagement numbers, what if platforms allowed users to compete on things like substance, new perspective, insight, depth, and authenticity—real, tangible value?
Sadly, in many mediums, this isn’t the case.
Social media algorithms don’t reward insight or incentivize value creation. Engagement is largely based on popularity, our personal history (thoughts on how we can be more intentional with this that later), and highly calculated assumptions about what is most likely to get us to react—positively or negatively.
In return, we throw around Likes at the first sign of an agreeable buzzword or recognizable profile pic.
A Like is a vote. A comment is an endorsement. Use them with care and intention. They actually impact a lot.
(This is why engagement pods exist. They allow large pools of people who don’t have any talent to collectively game the system and rise to the top of your feed.)
What I’m saying is that this is on us. We all need to be more thoughtful and selective. Our filters need to be much stronger. Because we’re training the system. And the system gives us back more of what we put into it.
Bottom line: Only support good content. Period.
This can be a meritocracy. But we have to choose it. And that takes intentionality and effort. Because the system wants either mindless agreement or polarizing reaction.
Let’s face it, both are good for business. Nuance and depth aren't.
This isn’t just a social media issue.
Other places where meritocracy largely no longer exists:
- Politics: From local elections through the electoral college, those who play the game based on the rules in place, win. Or, they just change the rules.
- VC fundraising: Many times, pedigree alone will get money thrown at your idea—regardless of how good it is. Hence all the “Ex-[insert fancy tech company] flying around.
- Recruiting: See fundraising and just apply it to getting job opportunities while you already have a really good job.
- Amazon reviews: Rigged. Period.
- Our Netflix Top 10: I mean, c’mon.
- The NYT Best Sellers list: You can literally buy your way onto it. I know someone who did it. (Don’t get me started on Amazon best sellers.)
There are however places where meritocracy still exists:
Crowdfunding, Hacker News, podcasts, and paid subscription models like Substack and Patreon are a few examples of places where quality still rises to the top.