Killing Engagement in its Pursuit

As I looked through some of Facebook’s example Instant Articles, two thoughts came to mind.

The first: Wow, this is nicely done.

The second: I’m kinda getting bored reading this article.

That old familiar feeling, the tug of ‘time to bail!’, and the fear of missing out — maybe there’s something better I can look at?

Close. Scroll. Tap. Look. Brain yawn.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. A communication trick that made using twice as much shampoo seem a fine thing to do. I bet the people behind that never dreamed of what they would do with an unlimited shampoo bottle.

Tap. Engage. Repeat. The mission of mobile social media. Like junk food companies, the ethics of only consuming appropriate levels gets trumped by ‘how do we get people coming back for more?’

A new, healthier version that is developed only matters if people are able to be convinced to go for that instead.

The example content on the Instant Articles Facebook page are nice, like a free roll being handed out by McDonald’s from its new salad range.

It all doesn’t matter if the end goal stays being ‘increase those numbers’. McDonalds will sell you a muffin and a sugared latte, and Facebook will want you to hang around as long as you can in its feed and other platforms.

Unlike McDonalds, a hungry urge for Facebook and the rest of the mobile apps can be satisfied at any moment by pulling a thing out of your pocket.

So big is the pull of the modern phone, a companion device has to be created to reduce digital engagement and to get people moving.

Monthly active users. Global unit sales. Customer sat.

When the primary goal is to always increase these, ideas of moderation and balance and less is more go out the window.

Digital produce, such as content and software, expand the abilities of mass production into the infinite. Whether we should make more or whether people need more is forgotten when you have the limitless factory.

Learning to engage with yourself is one of the most important personal skills as it leads to stronger self awareness and drive. By deferring always to a device, you reduce the effectiveness of the high tech device you were born with: your body. Paired with your mind, it’s the ultimate hardware and software combination, as its motivations are driven by you and no one else.

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