Sahara smiling at camera in front of building structure.
I still have no idea what to do with my hands
I'm going to preface this post by mentioning I never really counted my calories before. Minus my high school years where I would look to see how many calories was in something in the supermarket, I never really tallied them up at the end of the day. As I spend more time scrolling through social media than most (hi unemployment/freelance-and-temp-work-is-kinda-slow-at-the-moment) one thing I did see a lot of was Instagram banning photos of products that promote weight loss this past week. Instagram is an app I have a love/hate relationship with, but this was a massive step in the right direction. Something that I think that the media pushes into our point of view a lot in the form of advertisements is dieting and the idea that all calories are bad for you.

Most of my friends have in one way or another attempted to convince me to diet or I've seen several people on Instagram announce they are going on a diet. But the thing about diets is that it's not something long term technically speaking. If it was, the diet industry wouldn't be worth $72.7 billion in the US. 

This kind of reminds me of the movie Joy.
Joy created a mop that had the tag-line "The only mop you'll ever need".  Most companies didn't want to bring her mop to their customer base because if that's the only mop they'll ever need then the company itself will be decreasing their current profit. The companies thrived on people always buying new mops because the mops weren't meant to last - Joy's mop on the other hand was meant to last.

How does this relate to the diet industry?

Well, if diets truly worked wouldn't consumers (us) be the winners in the equation, not the diet industry? The only diet you'll ever need is a tagline to most diets. When people do one diet,  find that it's not working for them, then they try another, and another, and so on.  The diet industry profit increases because they are constantly telling consumers that they need to lose XYZ to be healthy and in order to lose XYZ you have to follow this strict diet that is so strict that you will give it up in a week or so but then pick up a different diet and the cycle continues. 

Personally, I've tried taking out an entire food group once. For one day. That lead to me feeling extremely weak and near the point of fainting while on public transportation. The food group I decided to take out? Sugar/Fruits.

Fruits are naturally high in sugar and surprisingly one year ago a lot of runners were preaching to take out fruits from your day-to-day because of their naturally high sugar. I don't think anyone is immune to falling for some sort of fitness/health fad diet, if it's all we are being shown we'll fall down the rabbit hole at least once. Even a lot of diets promote the idea of taking out fruits, and it's something that, although I fell into the fad for precisely less than 24 hours, never made much sense to me.

Sahara smiling at camera and walking in front of building structure.

After that fainting scare one year ago, I began to think differently on what I decide to put in my body (and what I decide to not put in my body). Fruits are naturally high in sugar, not processed, N A T U R A L. The more I thought of the idea that nature's candy had to make its way out of my life because of what diet trend was on the rise, the more I began to wonder how we went from an apple a day keeps the doctor away to every fruit must be taken out of your diet. I love munching on grapes, apples, blueberries, strawberries raspberries, mangoes, cherries, watermelon - fruit salads are basically my go-to snack. 

So I decided to chuck every diet trend into the wind and eat.

Overall, I'd say since not paying attention to diet trends was perhaps the best step forward I could have ever taken. I focus on what I know my body needs: Eat my fruits and vegetables, and protein in the from of grains or meat. Generally speaking I don't eat processed foods, I was never the snacker of Doritos, Oreos or Potato chips*.

* = hi if you eat any of these or all three, I'm not a dietitian or certified nutritionist, I'm just a runner who likes fruits and feels more energized after munching on a fruit salad. Do I have the odd Oreo? Yes. Do I eat chocolate chip cookies? Yes - especially if they're homemade! This is just a disclaimer that I know what works for me and my body, and that I loosely live by the 80/20 rule. 80% good 20% freestyle. please live your best eating life not by following how everyone else approaches food but by what's best for you and your body.

Diet culture is pretty much everywhere on social media, especially the idea that you should be counting your calories.

As I mentioned above, I have several friends who did try to get me to either go on Keto or Military Diet. Both of those diets promote cutting out entire food groups. The Keto diet basically kung-fu's its way through carbs - by that I mean the idea is to minimize any carbs you eat: Cut out fruits and smoothies, regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, pasta, beans, bread etc. I can't be the only one wondering what's left for there to shop for for food? A friend of mine tried to get me into it but my issue always came down to: sweet potatoes are great for you, what did lentils ever do to deserve this treatment, you do know that beans are high in protein, and that fruits are from the literal soil.

Okay while we're on the topic of sweet potatoes: Did you know sweet potatoes have a lot of nutrients that are good for your body, such as vitamin B6, potassium, and IRON which your body NEEDS to help you grow strong?

Anyways - I've pretty much been solid on never cutting out foods out if we don't count my short lived one day of cutting out fruits.

Sahara smiling at camera in front of building structure.
me as I have no idea what to do with my right hand so I guess I'll just hold the bag

A few months back, a friend of mine was trying to get me to count my calories using the MyFitnessPal app. In the beginning, my initial reaction was to mention I wasn't interested in counting my calories because I didn't want to become calorie obsessed. As long as I am eating all nutritious foods, why should I be counting my calories?

And then I kept getting advertisements for supplements for athletes on every. social. media. platform.

At the moment, I'm not deficient in anything and I'm a-okay health wise so I tend to rely only on nutritional benefits from foods that I eat. As an athlete, one thing I see a lot of are supplements and how I should be taking them. At the moment, I don't take any supplements mainly because I personally try to get as much nutritional benefits from the foods + snacks that I eat. I try to eat as much protein. Drink Fresh juice. Literally anything and everything except taking supplements is my life. As the promotion of supplements on every platform I scrolled through increased, I began to wonder: Am I eating enough? Am I eating the calories someone my height, weight, training should be? Should I be taking supplements?

One month ago, I decided to try the MyFitnessPal app for 2 days.

How did the short-lived calorie count go?

Well, it turns out I'm not eating enough. On the MyFitnessPal, it said that I should be having 1990 calories a day (technically speaking based on Calorie Calculator I should be having 2,321 calories a day) On two of those days, I didn't even reach it. On day one, I fell short by 283 calories and on Day 2 I fell short by 1,000 calories. What I noticed was that although I say I get all I need from the foods that I eat, I'm not eating enough to match my height, weight and training at all which means my workouts (although going great!) could be better if I ate more. 

I don't plan to count my calories (at the time of writing this) in the very near future.

My life isn't about calories, it's about am I eating enough to feel energized, feel good, and put in the work needed in my workouts. I personally don't like the idea of counting calories (I don't have anything against anyone who does) I just prefer to focus on is this something that has nutritional benefit or not. Although I don't plan to count my calories in the near future, I do think 6 months from now it'd be a good idea to see if I've changed at all.

Sahara smiling at camera while walking in front of building structure.
What are my thoughts on taking supplements?

Long term athletic wise not health-am-I-deficient-in-this-wise? I have to do a lot more research to make a well-informed decision. Yes I see the benefit of having supplements for athletes, but there's always the nagging thought of natural natural natural. 

Before even thinking of supplements though (athletic wise not health-am-I-deficient-in-this-wise) I think the most important thing is to make sure you are eating enough on your own which is the step I'm currently at.

Calories aren't all that bad for you, and bread really isn't the end of the world. I almost talked myself out of making an avocado bagel one day for lunch because oh no bread but then I was watching a video of a day in the life of an olympian and she was having an avocado bagel and you can best believe I paused the video to make one myself. Also, pasta is not the end of the world, eat a full bowl. 

There's so many foods that we either subconsciously cancel out or intentionally avoid and I think a lot of that comes from misinformation being spread. The best advice I can give is do your own research from non-biased verified™ sources to come to your own conclusions.  Also, take everything an Instagram "Nutritionist" says with a massive grain of salt. Unless they have a degree and or are certified: Run, and run far.

Have you ever gone on a diet and then gave up soon after? Do you count your calories or live semi-free-style like I do?
Sahara with Nike Hijab, athletic clothes
why do i look so tired i took these photos BEFORE my run for a reason why is one eye half shut well then

Road running is always a lot of fun - if we don't count the stopping at traffic lights, the cars that seem to forget pedestrians-right-of-way on cross walks/zebra crossings and the people who are coming up behind you and don't say 'on your left'. Ok, if we minus all that, road running is 10/10 and I love it.

I used to run on the treadmill years ago as a University student, until I realized that if I walked a little deeper in my gym there was actually an indoor track (I promise I'm observant). One thing I didn't love about the treadmill was that I stayed in one place and it didn't feel the greatest on my shins. I'm pretty protective of my shins as shin splints and soreness in my shins are part of a long list of past injuries. So, anything that makes my shins feel the equivalent to that spongebob meme where everything is on fire and it's a code red is the quickest way for me to chuck whatever it is out of my schedule.

Okay, now back to road running.

I'm finally back to running my regular 5K's a few times a week after building up my mileage since taking Ramadan off + taking a couple of weeks vacation. Ramadan was months ago, and although I was active via doing a 10 minute ab workout everyday for 30 days, I had to build my endurance up again. So, this meant a lot of my days was spent going up to point X and then every week or so going X + extra. And it was a great feeling seeing how I always went further than the previous week.

Until I noticed that mentally since I knew where my mile check points were based on my surroundings,  I'd sit back in my run and not really push myself.

I don't know if this is a me-thing but whenever I'm running the same route for a while, I mentally just take note of where each mile ends and settle into the run because I've run the distance before so it's not an impossible run. What I found after running one specific path for a few months was that in the beginning, I was hitting 6'56 pacing per mile. As time went on, and my distance went up, I noticed that I didn't push myself anymore, just went with the flow of the run even though deep down I knew I could go faster.

Sahara sitting down on steps with gym bag

It's a weird type of place to be in: Going at a slower pace even though inner you is like excuse me we can go faster but then you mute inner you and continue at the pace you're going.

Don't get me wrong here, going slower than your hardcore race pace is 100% needed and you should really have more slow days than all out fast days. It's just on those slow days, I feel I'm going slower than I should be. 



So I decided to change my running route for funzies.

The path I used to run consistently for months had one massive downhill and was pretty chill after Mile One - well, also making sure cars see you on the side of the road until the sidewalk appears again is a sport on its own and some beep their horn like the road isn't for runners, cyclists AND cars - so uh mostly chill.

At the moment of writing this, I've changed my running route two different times and it's such a weird feeling. I know that's probably not the best way to describe, but stay with me here. The reason why it was such a weird experience is because my mind couldn't recognize where Mile One ended, when Mile 2 was and where Mile 3 would take me based on my surroundings. 

What happened when I couldn't mentally pin my surroundings as mile check points?

I went faster. The reason I went faster was because I had no idea where I was in my run, near mile 2 or just hitting the mid-way point, so that meant my mind was kind of in the dark and couldn't sit back in the run because mile 2 was just around the corner and I'll pick up the pace when I get there. Yes, I have my Runtastic App to tell me you've completed one mile but I didn't know when she was going to speak because I couldn't recognize my surroundings as an indicator that my mile was almost done.

It was also really fun changing my running route, half the time I had to silent my brain that was becoming the math meme with calculus equations trying to figure out where Mile 1 ended and where Mile 2 began and the other half, I was loving going fast and seeing how strong my legs have become. On both of those new running routes there was a lot of steady inclines throughout rather than flat for a good duration of the run.

The funny thing is that on one of those runs, I almost talked myself out of turning up this one street because I knew there was a steep incline, I shushed the running-comfort-zone and turned down on the street. Turns out, that mile was my fastest of the whole run.

Working on speed as a distance runner is something that is a work-in-progress, and I think it will always be a work in progress. There are two different types of running: Aerobic and Anaerobic. In Aerobic, that's the pace where you can go on for miles and miles. Anaerobic on the other hand is the type of running where you can only maintain for a short period of time - i.e. interval training where you're going your maximum speed. I try to stay in the middle of those two types of running, but sometimes I feel I lean too much on the Aerobic running side. It's not that I can't maintain a middle ground between the two, it's that mentally I just get so comfortable in my run that I just stick to an Aerobic pace.

This is where challenging myself by not being familiar with my surroundings has been helpful in getting me to that middle ground. There's so much growth as a runner to explore outside of your comfort zone, and it starts with you making the conscious effort to challenge yourself.

Sahara sitting on steps with running clothes and her gym bag

By changing my surroundings, not being able to pin where my mile ends and the next begins, that's when I started to notice I was approaching that middle ground of Aerobic and Anaerobic. I even noticed on one steady incline that my legs suddenly felt a lot stronger charging up it. As much as I do like to know based on my surroundings how deep into my run I am, to maintain that middle ground it seems to be better not to know.

It's an ongoing journey of me pushing myself outside of my running comfort zone and sometimes my comfort wins vs challenge - and that's completely okay. What matters is that I choose to challenge myself again until I ace the challenge, and then I find a new challenge to master.

I'm a work in progress, and I embrace my journey with all the falls, with all times I've chosen comfort versus challenging myself, all the pauses in between sets, all the injuries, all the tripping over my jump rope while trying a new trick because I get back up, I challenge myself, I start my next set, I learn from my injuries, and I no longer trip on my jumprope as much.

Changing my running route often is a fun way to keep my runs interesting and to keep me from relaxing too much into my run - having all my runs lean more towards Aerobic, although really nice because I feel I can go on forever, isn't how I'm going to chip away at my 5K time. As much as the math side of my brain wants to know where each mile ends, I think the second I start to consciously pin specific areas to the end of a mile/beginning of the next, that's when it's going to be time to change the route again because I'll start falling into Aerobic-only-running again. Not on purpose, but because I've grown comfortable with the route.

Sahara sitting on stairs in her running clothes smiling at camera with a peace sign

In a way, changing your running route is challenging, and in my case helps me maintain a middle ground between Aerobic and Anaerobic running, but it also can make you a better racer - when you're racing you don't visibly know where each mile ends. When I race, half my mind is always trying to figure out how much longer until the next mile marker because I don't know my surroundings to know the answer to that question. And I think that's how it should be not based on that oak tree Mile 2 is almost done which means I should probably pick it up now. 

If you also run, let me give you this one tip to start flying: Let your chin lead your chest while you run- this gives you a forward lean. 

Also, just so we're all on the same page here: I have my recovery 5K runs and I also have my let's-pick-it-up-today 5K runs - and it's important for me to make that distinction because going your fastest all the time is how to find yourself waddling like a penguin with ice packs. I linked an earlier article from On Running, and I found it fascinating because based on that article, a good chunk of my runs should be at a chill-slow-but-not-slow-slow pace. And this is what I need to work on on the days I'm not going all out on my runs - going slow on my runs but not slow-slow. I don't meant to go slow-slow on my runs, it sort of just happens?

I like going fast, trust me when I say my favorite thing is sprinting on the track, but slow running allows your body to recover and you need that recovery for your let's-pick-it-up-today runs. 

I also like knowing exactly where each mile ends so I have a general idea of where my run will take me. The runs where I don't know how far into Mile 2 I am are going to take a while for me to get used to, but I look forward to seeing if race-day-me will be thanking me in the future for alternating my running route often.

How often do you change your running route? Do you find you stick more to Aerobic Running?

Sahara smiling in front of an Apple Tree

So I happen to be listening to Ed Sheeran's Beautiful People song a lot recently - and by recently did I ever stop listening to it since it came out? Although I know a lot of people who don't like Ed Sheeran, he is a favorite of mine to listen to. When I heard the song, it really started to make me think of kind of just life.

Whenever we start something new, whether that be blogging, running, baking etc., we always look for inspiration in the form of Pinterest, Instagram and maybe even Twitter. In terms of blogging, I think there's a general-idea of what content you know will get a lot of views vs content that won't attract half as many - you know what I'm talking about, the gamble-idea-of-a-post.

When looking for inspiration - which, you're talking to the same person who sees cotton candy and decides to research the inventors and goes for a history joy ride - a lot of what I see on Pinterest or even on my Instagram is practically everyone looking as if copy and paste took in-person form with minor lighting differences. Individuality can at times be squashed away in favor for 'what's popular' and that's where I think a lot of creators are finding themselves at the crossroads of.

And it often comes with the choice of do I imitate what I see or do I stay in the lane that was created just for me?

Sahara posing in front of an Apple Tree
right, I'm not sure what's happening in this photo but we're rolling with it
I've had a lot of thoughts on the direction of my blog. I've been writing for 3 years and the route I take to writing is quite literally whatever floats my boat - whatever I feel like. And as a result of not having a niche, my growth compared to what one person who recently started blogging six months ago with a niche is fairly low. It was brought up to me by my sister that my growth - although I've been doing this for 3 years - is quite literally crumbs. 

And at the time that hurt to hear the truth. But at the same time? I chose the direction of my blog and through the years my blog has evolved in the form of my blogging voice rather than in reach. I used to write in such a way that was similar to english papers, as I grew comfortable with my little space on the internet, my blogging voice came alive. My actual voice. 

I may not be growing like everyone else, but I am evolving in my own way.

Do I want my blog to grow? Yes of course I'd love to grow my blog! I recently made a pact with myself that if I post once a week on my blog for September then I will be getting a domain. My blogging schedule has been a bit in shambles to put it simply, which is accurate because my life is in shambles. 

My life is what I call organized chaos. It's organized to me and the synonym for disorganized for everyone else. For starters, I've applying for full time roles and finding freelance work in the long journey to full time for about a year now. Everyone I know has secured full-time roles. I'm the only one left without one, and it gets me down a lot.

Sahara smiling in front of an Apple Tree
happy sahara even though life is in shambles - as long as I still have a smile on my face, it can't be THAT bad of a shamble did i even make sense oh well

You may have noticed my weekly blog posts turned into monthly. (I'm changing that to get back into weekly, I promise.) That would be because I was drowning in rejections, doing certifications on top of my degree, doing freelance work, and being told I wasn't good enough for a full time role all at the same time. That spread into every area of my life from my track life to my blogging life - which is why I stopped writing. I didn't stop going to the track, but rather than being excited to go,  I'd just worry about where my life is going on my way to the track.

When I was at the track, it's almost as if well why aren't you applying to jobs? You're wasting time! You're not working hard enough to get a job! 

So like I said, my life is organized chaos, or what probably makes more sense: in shambles. 

When I was listening to Beautiful People, something it made me think of was the direction everyone is going in - from blogging to university friends. In blogging, I see a lot of similar photos by different people glossed over on my Instagram. In my university friends, everyone is riding a wave of full time employment while I'm out here wave-finding.

I wonder how long it's going to take me to find a wave. To find my thing.

Sahara smiling in front of an Apple Tree

Recently, I commented on Team USA's 400M Hurdler World Champion Olympian Georganne Moline instagram post. She followed me a few months ago - and I swear I still remember that day, I screamed so loud like my favorite Olympian knows of my existence and actually looked at my Instagram where I literally have 300 followers and thought hey I'm going to follow her! 

Anyways, let's move past my fangirling for a second, she recently went through a surgery and was so positive about the whole thing and I was just in awe. I commented how much I loved her positivity and that I was excited to follow along with her journey to Tokyo 2020. She replied to me.

She said that she could say the same thing about me [regarding positivity] and that she loved my work ethic and the smile I always have on my face.

She loved MY work ethic when I was sitting here wondering am I doing everything right? Where is my life actually going? What's my 5K time looking like? Is it even worth dreaming this big for an Olympic dream when I am constantly told to get back to reality?

And that was my answer to a lot of things.

I'm generally a very optimistic person - me and pessimism don't know each other unless we're discussing the probability of me landing a full time role. I question a lot of what I do and if I'm doing anything right. Everyone is progressing in their career, and everyone I follow on Instagram seems to have it all figured out.

It's kind of like I'm Waldo because I'm easily noticeable as doing my own thing across my platforms and in life.

I don't follow a trend, I don't have picture-perfect photos; I'm just sort of chilling in my own lane. But I also understand in terms of growth, as is clear by a few friends of mine who recently took up blogging and pretty much surpassed me in viewership and following in a few months, that following what's on trend, what's popular, and going with the flow rather than diverging away from it is one way that leads to growth almost instantly - but that's not me.

I don't plan to be anyone else but me on my platforms or in my life. I'm happy with my running selfies, my ramblings about history in the form of crash courses, balancing my phone on a bench post-run to take a running video, attempting to figure out poses when I have my tripod because I have precisely 0 poses except smiling at the camera because that's me. All of it is me. My life isn't a glossy magazine of instagram photos, there's sweaty me after a run and there's me narrating the history of sidewalks.

The other way that leads to growth is being your genuine self (cliche, yes I know, stay with me now) because you may not be everyone's cup of tea but what's important is that you are your own cup of tea.

What Georganne Moline made me realize is this: I may not have a fancy job with a 6 figure salary, and I may not have a coach/trainer but there is one thing I do have: My work ethic.

I'm studying for an additional certification and I practice coding problems during the day to get that much closer to a full time role.  I train 6 times a week - I show up at the track for every workout I assign myself. It's just me out here.

Even if I'm the only one at the track, I run. I wasn't great at hill sprints - I trained and got better. My core wasn't always strong, so I trained for a month specifically on core and I have a faint outline of abs now. I didn't know how to do the boxing skip with my jumprope - I learned. Now, I do it every other day without thinking and add some new jump rope tricks.

I used to do terrible on coding challenges I was sent (more on this in a future post). Now, I finish at least one of the two impossible problems I'm given. I used to panic every time I did a coding problem from a specific book - now I solve questions from there in 10 minutes.

I feel like I'm floating in a limbo most days but my work ethic is what defines me, not my employment - it just took me a year and 4 months to realize that.

I may have 300 followers on Instagram, amassed a small blog audience in my 3 years of blogging, and I may only have 625 Twitter Followers but I don't plan on changing the person I am to fit the mould of what's deemed to be popular or what's deemed to be the perfect software engineer - I'll make my own mold.

In the words of Ed Sheeran's Beautiful People:

We don't fit in well 
'Cause we are just ourselves

I may not fit in well with my lack of a niche in blogging or with my university friends who have full time jobs while I'm out here holding binoculars to my email wondering if in the distance I see a rejection email on its way or a job offer but I'm not giving up what makes me me to become one of the Beautiful People*.

If there's one advice I can give, as Chari Hawkins - Team USA Heptathlete - said over on her Instagram Story:  Work hard and stay patient.

Your work ethic is yours. How much you stick to your work ethic to see the results you want to see depends on how patient you are in the process. Work hard, and stay patient, and you're golden.

* = listen to Beautiful People and then come back to understand this ending line ok thank u!

So now I turn it over to you: Are you a go with the flow type of person, or I'm going to plant myself like a tree and do my own thing type of person? Let's get this conversation going!
Sahara using iPhone

Recently, I watched the documentary The Great Hack. It's been a long time coming, it came out a few months ago, and I had every intention to watch it the second it came out but with juggling job searching, studying for an additional certification on top of my Computer Science Degree to make myself more marketable for junior positions, and also training 6 times a week as a track athlete, it was put on the back burner.

The Great Hack is a wild ride about data, and as someone who is a software engineer I found it extremely interesting. Technology has advanced a lot in the past few years, and as technology advances the more our bubble of reality is shaped by the algorithms of mainstream applications -  like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - we use. 

After watching the documentary - which honestly, I may even need to watch a second time - I began to wonder how many alternative realities we all live in that's created by what we engage with.

Let's start with Twitter.

When you click on the little magnifying glass that indicates searching, you have 4 tabs that you can swipe between: For You, Trending, News, Sports, Fun. Now, the For You tab is the selected one that you see when you initially click on the magnifying glass. Depending on what you engage with, keywords you tweet about, and who you follow, this shows what the algorithm thinks you would like/be interested in. 

Now, I have a question for you: How often do you select Trending, News, Sports, Fun tabs that are just a swipe away?

Personally, not much. I just scroll through the reality that the algorithm has sorted for me based on my likes, what I engage with, and who I follow. There is so much going on in the world, and with the For You section, it just ensures that regardless of what is actually happening in the world, you are only shown a piece of the world that you don't realize is a piece but rather think is the whole puzzle. Your perception of reality is shaped by an algorithm that essentially tries its best to become an extension of your subconscious.

Sahara sitting down with iPhone in one hand

Now let's shift our focus to Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook and one of its children (the second child being WhatsApp). Facebook is what The Great Hack focused on. Cambridge Analytica (CA) used Facebook to determine the in-between people in the 2016 Election. The ones who weren't for Trump or Hillary but in between - undecided. Those are who CA targeted - the ones whose minds they can change.

So how did they actually target these people specifically? 

The researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, sold 270,000 personality tests to CA. But it actually doesn't stop there. His personality test not only links to the person who took it but it also looks into the test-taker's friends and collects their data too - so in total 50m people's data.

But not all 50M people took the personality test so now they had a gap - they had one user's personality test data but for every one user's personality test data they had 200+ friends of theirs who did not take the test.

This is where Michal Kosinki came in - for every person who took the personality test, he analyzed all their friends likes and engagement and essentially reverse engineered the personality test based on that and created a profile for each friend. And that's how 50m data + personality was complete.

The Trump Campaign worked with CA - and the goal was simple: make the undecided voters decided on voting for President Trump.

Based on the data that the personality profiles had - which amounted to over 100m registered voters in the US - the advertisements that each person saw was tailored based on what the data showed they engaged with. Facebook was essentially home to multiple realities - each that made sure the specific undecided voter saw exactly the precise advertisement that would tilt the scale from undecided to decided.

There was a lot of talk in the news of Cambridge Analytica and how it basically destroyed the democratic process in both the US and the UK, Brexit, and in a way they did - they got into people's heads in a way that people didn't realize that the content they were consuming was placed in a way that it didn't look out of place on their Facebook feed rather, it was exactly where it was supposed to be.

Sahara focusing on her phone on social media

Did Cambridge Analytica direct people to vote for Trump so they had no freewill?

No, but they did put all the pieces to ensure that the puzzle that users saw was the one Cambridge Analytica wanted them to see.

Instagram - Facebook's child - is the last one we're going to delve into. Even if you don't use Facebook, Instagram is essentially an extension of it. So let's talk about the explore page. Similar to what Twitter does with the For You section, Instagram shows you what their algorithm - based on your likes and what you engage with - thinks you would like. 

Sometimes algorithms get it wrong - trust me when I say I sometimes question how on earth some things end up on either on Twitter Explore or Instagram Explore but the algorithm takes note: what you click on, what you don't and perfects itself until it is always correct. 

These algorithms - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - shape our life the more time we spend on them. The more time we spend on them, the more it becomes more accurate. In terms of Twitter, your world view may just be the For You section - even though there is more to the world than the bubble that the algorithm has created for you.

Sahara smiling at camera with phone in hand
and yes to confirm: these are tea cups on my shirt

Where does that leave us? How do we jump out of this data bubble?

Well, our perception of reality is formed by what different algorithms are able to learn about us. As this is the 21st century, there is no one trick to escape the data bubble since everything that we do revolves around the online world. But what you can do is be selective of what you want the algorithm to know about you - i.e. what you choose to share. 

Also, as more of an add on, remember how I mentioned the personality test created was done by linking your Facebook profile up? Right. I think now is a great time to mention: When given the opportunity to link a social media you already have OR sign up by email address - sign up by email address. Personally, I do this because I don't know what data an app/website will be pulling from my social media, and I'd rather start with a clean slate rather than a data backpack of information sent to an app/website the second I choose 'Sign in With Facebook'.

Have you ever watched The Great Hack? If not, are you planning to watch it? How accurate is your Twitter/Instagram Explore section?