Jonathan Stray, who researches recommendation algorithms in the Berkeley Center for Human-Friendly AI, says this approach is consistent with other social media platforms. “Engagement, in various forms, is definitely the primary signal used by content rankings for virtually all platforms,” Stray says in an email, noting that one of the few exceptions is rankings for non-personalized sites, such as on Reddit.
So staying on celebrity accounts, liking delicious food porn, or responding in comments to dog mom posts on Instagram likely influences the type of content that appears in your Threads feed. But simply sending a text-based supplication to the anonymous metagods (or algorithms) that run Threads won’t work. Dear Algorithm posts have all the energy of Twitter’s early #FollowFridays days, which helped users find other interesting people, or the sweetly desperate vibes of copy-and-paste hoaxes that convinced Facebook users not to. They would be owners of the uploaded photos. if they just posted a copyright warning on their feeds. Of course, #FollowFridays really worked; copy and paste misspelled legal jargon demanding your rights Facebook didn’t do it.
The Dear Algorithm trend also suggests that spam is starting to infiltrate Threads: When investigating these posts on Threads, WIRED observed over 100 quick repeats of the same list, shared by multiple accounts in a short period of time, and all of them included the phrase “Lovers of Jesus” in the post. (This is not to say that Jesus is spam; just the repetitive messages.) Meta said she is investigating the issue.
Some of the early problems with discoverability on Threads, which claims to have just under 100 million monthly active users, could be alleviated with the introduction of hashtags. On Wednesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was testing tagging on Threads in Australia. Once they’re widely deployed, tagging one of your interests in a Dear Algorithm post could make it easier for other people to find and interact with that post. But Meta hasn’t said when tags will be supported in Threads in other countries, and for now, users can add only one tag at a time to a Threads post.
“I’m still hoping that Threads will bring me to more people that I have things in common with,” says McCellon, the organizer who is trying to galvanize her community around local politics in Oklahoma. “I think most of the people who follow me there already follow me on Instagram, but that’s not necessarily helpful if you’re trying to organize or build a new community.”
But, McCellon admits, if Threads connects her with just one or two people who gain a new perspective on local politics, “then the algorithm has done its job.”