Online sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Tumblr are so very common in our day to day lives these days you'd think you knew almost everything about how they work. A reporter for Gizmodo Media Group, a woman named Kashmir Hill, recently found out that we know far less about social media than anyone can imagine.
Just think about Facebook, and the 'People you may know' section. This can recommend hundred of people to you at any time, some of them could be friends from work, some from old times in school, but also people you see as strangers. That is exactly what happened to Kashmir when Facebook recommended someone who looked like a stranger but happened to have a very familiar name...
A suggested friend on Facebook ended up changed Hill's perspective on social media completely and got her wondering HOW exactly does social media know what and who to recommend to us?
She began the article with this:
“The People You May Know feature is notorious for its uncanny ability to recognize who you associate with in real life. It has mystified and disconcerted Facebook users by showing them an old boss, a one-night-stand, or someone they just ran into on the street,” said Hill.
Sometimes it would suggest the same people over and over, but through out the course of one winter, it offered more than 1400 people she may have known. According to Hill around 200 of them (Or about 15%) were people she actually knew or recognized, the rest were strangers.
So she was suggested around 1200 strangers over the course of only 3 months! People she thought she had nothing to do with at all until one name among the bunch stood out to her...
The name of an older Ohio woman, Rebecca Porter. The face held no significance for Hill, and they had no mutual friends, but the name Porter was all too familiar.
“My biological grandfather is a man I’ve never met, with the last name Porter, who abandoned my father when he was a baby. My father was adopted by a man whose last name was Hill, and he didn’t find out about his biological father until adulthood,” said Hill.