Have you ever wondered why you simply can’t seem to put your phone away for even ten minutes? Or do you constantly keep checking your phone for notifications only to find a blank screen? Well, you might be addicted to it and tech companies who program the applications on your phone want that exact result; people who are hooked to their devices.
What these programmers are doing is called ‘brain hacking’ and it’s basically writing code that taps into our very basic instincts of fear, anxiety and loneliness to their advantage.
So how exactly does an app do that? Researchers at technological companies spend a lot of resources trying to figure out how the human brain works and in turn create products that influence the decisions we make. For example, every time you put your phone down, the brain sends a signal that releases a hormone that is responsible for the flight or flight response in your body. The anxiety trigger is probably the reason you hear what are known as ‘phantom vibrations‘ on your phone or cause you to check your social media feed in case something new has happened yet it’s only been ten minutes. That ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ or ‘FOMO’ phenomenon was mostly likely programmed into you through smartphones.
It’s a very genius way to keep us online, scrolling for up to an hour to find content worth looking at because the longer we stay online, the more money social media companies like Facebook make. Our attention is the commodity and advertisers are willing to pay top dollar for it.
These physiological tricks are also being used by work on demand apps whose entire premise is that the users have flexible work hours with full control over their working hours. It essentially creates what is now being called the gig economy which is a disruption of traditional employment by allowing people to work short-term freelance jobs over a series of time as opposed to one steady job.
The whole point of work on demand apps is flexibility and freedom and in a world where millennials make up a majority of the workforce, that couldn’t speak more truly to the core of their existence. But do they actually have control? Or is the entire premise a façade?
In an article in the daily mail, companies like Uber use a tactic that keeps drivers on the app longer by reminding them that they are about to hit their monetary target. It also shows the driver the next ride while they are still on their current ride and takes them to places where the demand is high. When you try, and log out, it reminds you of your target, giving you the option of logging out or to keep driving with the keep driving option already highlighted.
In another interesting story in the New Yorker, a woman who drove for another ride hailing app called Lyft, kept working even when she was in labour. Even though she managed to drive herself to the hospital without any glitches, it makes one wonder what exactly was the motivation behind continuing to work a week before her due date. Could it be that she had been psychologically manipulated over time by an app to keep working, or is the culture of the gig economy that encourages you to work yourself to exhaustion already ingrained in her.
Exercise apps, gaming apps, social media, almost every programmer uses these tools in one form or another in their applications.
When technology and tech companies now have the programming to shape our thoughts and influence our thinking, it gets scary what they can do with that type of power. Could whole governments use such technology to manipulate an entire nation through spreading propaganda? It would be similar to what Big Brother did in the novel 1984 by George Orwell. Where they used the telescreens found in every home to spy on their citizens and spread propaganda to make them one non-thinking mass.
Technology is a double-edged sword, smartphones have made our lives very easy and their value cannot be under-estimated but its also important to stop, put your phone down and examine the extent to which it has pervaded your life and the effect it might be having on it.
Is it time for you to wean yourself off your phone? Technology and Social Media – Time to unplug.
Featured image via Marketingland.com.