COLUMN: Use filters on your social media acounts


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

I heard recently that an adult only needs to spend about 40 minutes on TikTok before the algorithm learns the user’s personality as accurately as a close friend they’ve known their entire adult life.

In my experience it’s a lot like magic. TikTok has learned my interests and knows me better than I know myself, and curates short video clips via the “for you page”  with much more precision than any other platform I use.

One surprising area that I didn’t realize was of significant interest to me is lumberjacking.

It’s true, I love videos of trees being cut down, branches being trimmed, logs getting chopped, these sorts of things. 

Who doesn’t enjoy a good stump grinding or tree spading?

A tree spade, by the way, is a giant tool for removing and transplanting large trees and shrubs. Imagine my delight when I started seeing these videos show up in my TikTok feed!

Oh, the wonders of technology.

I’ve also mentioned that I’m a vegan, so naturally I see a lot of cooking TikToks, vegan food hacks, and new vegan products.

Quite contrary to what one might think, TikTok also shows me food content that would appeal mostly to carnivores.

People may be surprised to know that the cooking and handling of meat doesn’t bother me that much and the TikTok algorithm figured this out quickly.

Through all of this, somehow, the Liver King controversy has found its way onto my smartphone.

For those that may not know, Liver King purports to be an all-natural body builder fueled by “primal” foods such as raw liver, bone marrow, and other raw animal foods that he eats in copious quantities on his TikTok videos.

It has not been my intention to follow this individual closely, but I do know that Liver King has found himself at the center of a controversy surrounding leaked emails that reveal he’s not all natural, and in fact takes steroids!

Few were surprised, and one look at the man reveals the bearded 40-something-year-old man is chiseled, ripped beyond measure, covered in bulky muscles and huge, thick protruding veins that look anything but natural. 

Oh, TikTok algorithm, why must you show me these videos?

Thankfully, TikTok has a way to filter certain keywords.

Under your profile there is a “Settings and Privacy” menu, and you can go to “Content Preferences” and there’s an option to “Filter video keywords” where you indicate keywords that you wish to filter.

So, to cut back on my consumption of content hovering around this whole Liver King controversy, and hopefully boost the number of lumberjacking videos I see, I set my first filter to be “liverking.” 

It is pretty astounding to me that social media gets a bad rap for amplifying controversy and divisiveness, when individuals need to take advantage of the filtering options these platforms provide. 

I’m impressed that TikTok has these filtering options, and I know Twitter has a way to “mute” certain words and topics as well.

Users of social media platforms should make a regular habit of checking the security and privacy settings that are available. This will improve the overall experience.

After all, when we are putting our phones down after using social media, we should be feeling good about our experience, not the opposite. 

While TikTok’s algorithm may be able to learn our personalities easily, it’s on us to put filters in place that restrict topics we really have no interest in, or make us feel frustrated and bothered.

Filtering out topics that annoy or even distress us is a form of self-care which promotes a healthy relationship with our technology.

I’ll be looking for similar ways to filter other social media sites to limit my exposure to topics I don’t care for and I encourage you to do the same.

Dan Hahn is an English composition/rhetoric student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.