Your participation in the digital economy goes a long way. If you, say, see a Twitter ad and opt to never see it again because it is not relevant or is offensive, then that is one less vote for the effectiveness of that ad. If 100 more people do that then the advertiser may start reconsidering his Twitter ad spend. Eventually this will permeate to other advertisers as they discuss ineffective digital marketing platforms on their next marketing society retreat. The culmination of all this will be a collective retreat from Twitter as an advertising platform which inevitably result in losses for Twitter as they mark up their ad rates to cover for lost advertisers. With such a vicious cycle, Twitter may run into financial crisis and most likely close. If twitter closes you don’t get to connect with random yet influential people on the internet like you used to. You may lose networking opportunities that could have built your career, landed you a major business client or generally just opened doors where there were none before. Twitter loses and you lose.
The same would apply for every YouTube ad you skip and every LinkedIn sponsored post you flag unnecessarily. All our actions on social media have to be weighed in the same way that we weight our interaction in real life social settings. There is a gain for us in this ecosystem just as much as there is a gain for the company setting up the platform.
On the other hand, as digital practitioners and digital platform developers we have a role to make sure that the content we present to users is as meaningful and useful as possible. If your post sorting algorithm does not represent the best cohort of people I follow then it is wasting my precious attention. It will hence get less of my time and less of my time means less of my advertisers. Take the twitter algorithm that maintains a history of tweets on your timelines for instance. If you choose to mute a person, chances are that you will still see the previous tweets that they sent before you muted them. Normally anyone who mutes a twitter account is pretty much done with that handle’s content so having previous tweets muted as well would be a good value-add to your user experience. This is just one example of user experience improvements that could be developed to enhance a platform.
The best platform hence is ultimately a collaboration of two things, how rationally people behave (which is often not under our control) and how good their experience on the platform is (is it constantly improving and meeting their expectations?) . Since only one of these factors can be controlled to the exclusion of other competing platforms, our best focus as both digital media developers and content producers is to ask, How can I make you enjoy this more?