Guess what? The tech companies make social media apps deliberately addictive (especially for kids)
It's true. The BBC said so in their BBC Panorama show called Smartphones: The Dark Side aired last Wednesday.
A must-watch here.
Its most addictive feature, the endless scroll, is based on a bottomless soup experiment. Srsly.
Yes, a professor called Brian Wansink rigged up a bowl of soup that kept refilling itself on unsuspecting eaters to prove that visual clues influence our volume intake. It did - they ate 73% more. A few years later in 2006, engineer Aza Raskin devised a way of constantly feeding us social media with his endless scroll feature that allows us to swipe down without clicking. "If you don't give your brain time to catch up with your impulses," said Raskin, "you just keep scrolling."
And they do this to make us addicts on purpose?
According to Raskin: "Behind every screen on your phone, there are generally, like literally, a thousand engineers that have worked on this thing to try to make it maximally addicting." Wow.
How does Raskin feel now? Guilty?
"Yes, I do."
He added: "It's as if they're taking behavioural cocaine and just sprinkling it all over your interface and that's the thing that keeps you, like, coming back and back and back."
What else did the doc reveal?
That the colour red, used in all notifications (actually never noticed it before), lights up the brain that other colours don't, inferring that red notifications are scientifically addicting. Hm. But doesn't everyone use red to get our attention?
Facebook, Google and Twitter want us addicted to make more money from advertising...
"In order to get the next round of funding, in order to get your stock price up, the amount of time that people spend on your app has to go up," said Raskin. Got it.
Even the woman who invented the 'like' button became addicted to her own invention
Co-inventor Leah Pearlman, said: "When I need validation - I go to check Facebook. I'm feeling lonely, 'Let me check my phone.' I'm feeling insecure, 'Let me check my phone.'"
Uh oh. She tried to quit the app when she left Facebook. She failed.
Worse of all they apparently deliberately target young users
Another whistleblower Sandy Parakilas told the BBC that Facebook's goal was to 'addict' people at 'an incredibly young age' and likened the social network to a slot machine.‘You have a business model designed to engage you and get you to basically suck as much time out of your life as possible and then selling that attention to advertisers,' he said. ‘It makes me really angry. They know what the negative effects are and they are not being honest.’
But not everyone believes Panorama's evidence
Especially Amy Orben, a college lecturer who blasted the doc as "a prime example of science reporting loosing sight of actual science, while promoting scaremongering ideas in about the least nuanced way possible." She let off a volley of 13 tweets in a few hours.
BTW Twitter declined to comment
What did Snap say?
It denied using "visual tricks" and said it had no desire to increase empty engagement of the product. If teens go to Snap Maps, they can see where all their friends are having fun without them. It's really the ultimate in visual trickery and promotes serious FOMO.
With their rose-tinted glasses firmly on, it told the BBC everything was lovely in the garden of Facebook, where its products "bring people closer to their friends, family, and the things they care about". (I mean tell that to the parents of an Instagram-addicted teen).
PS Here's how to help wean kids off social media apps. I love rule No 4.