Designed Manipulation: Another way to look at social media addiction from a “mathematical” POV
by Dave Schoenfeld
It’s no longer a surprise that modern video games and social media manipulate the masses for profit. It’s not wrong to manipulate someone specifically, but ideally you know how and when it’s happening. Here are a few ways to combat these urges to validate through likes. The more you know, the less likely you’ll get as hooked.
Free-to-play video games live and die by building strong “compulsion loops”. Get players addicted to doing the same thing over and over rewarding them with small prizes, then monetize that by encouraging them to go for higher risks and rewards with real money. Most common addiction technique is very similar to gambling. The game would never look like it’s about gambling, they just use the same addiction hooks: build expectation of win/loses then toss in random big wins and few big loses. Social media is actually doing the same but it’s often done more covertly.
How does social media systematically manipulate me? I see my feed and don’t feel the effect. Well a simple example is your timeline is not chronological based on your friends posts. Simple example: If Facebook wants you to get more active they can algorithmically boost a post to your friends so you get lots of “likes” and comments, even emailing alerts. Wow, people are interested in what I have to say! Feels great! That algorithm boost, drops off quickly as soon as you’re back to posting consistently b/c they know they have you in their loop. Then no one, by comparison, seems to like your posts! Hmm, where are all those friends? It’s not you, it’s the algorithm.
Instagram, why didn’t my post do well? If we know the top posts on a timeline get seen by 100% of the people who open the app, a certain way down 60% seen, further down 30% and so on. Then where Instagram chooses to put your post on your friends timelines is controllable. If it’s matches free-to-play video games, then the algorithm should be designed to have your “like” count fluctuate. That means to get you addicted you will get a standard of say 100 likes, with random deviations to trigger emotional responses. One day you get 60, another day 350! That’s all by design by simply by moving your post higher or lower down your followers timeline. And that’s just the obvious first pass at an algorithm! Needless to say with psychologist and countless research dollars does a lot more.
Twitter copy’s this but in their own way with “In case you missed it” and controlling notifications.
None of this is new. Casinos figured this out a long time ago, hence the popularity of slot machines. Difference is we know a lot more about how slot machines work, and our interaction with them is transparent.
What can be done about this? Awareness is the key. We can’t avoid social media all together, but we can try to remind ourselves that there is a system in place designed to work with our emotions. For me, when I feel a compulsion to look at my favorite social media, and a voice in the back of my head asks, “Why did I just look?” I know the compulsion is growing into addiction. Then I try to take a break from social media for a few days to help pull the balance back into my hands. Another way to keep yourself aware is, when you post something valuable and get little to no response, remember the algorithm is always at play. It may not be you. So don’t let it get you down. You are amazing and letting the algorithm validate you or invalidate you is dangerous for your emotional wellbeing. We can only be more mindful when “mindlessly” scrolling through our feeds.
For more detailed information check out this in depth video!
David Schoneveld is on social media, but no need to follow him! He is a member of The New Hollywood Men’s Branch and enjoys travel, good food, and is a Virtual Reality Artist and Games designer.
Please note that not all experiences, beliefs and ideas are shared by each member of “The New Hollywood