My Digital Life
After listening to the speech given my Max Stossel at Calvin University, much of my prior frustrations with social media were reignited. Many of the points he shared not only fascinated me, but also confirmed what other whistleblowers are proclaiming about the dangers of technology usage. While I have always been aware of several of the personal side effects, I seem to learn something new each time I listen to a speaker, such as Max, discuss this heavy topic.
One of the interesting points he mentioned had to do with fundamental actions that technology developers do when designing apps. When creating an app, the professionals behind this are searching for ways to draw a viewers attention and to grab it for at least a few minutes. If they are successful in this, then they have accomplished something significant. Max illustrated this by claiming that developers create their platform in a way that is similar to a slot machine. Given this analogy, when a user of the app opens a notification, shares a post, or simply scrolls through its content, they are inherently hoping to receive something that feels good. While this may not seem like something to be concerned about, studies have shown how much of an addiction it has become for users. This “gambling” like process is one that astounds me, because it is one that is so close to our human nature and desire. I can personally relate with this habit and I believe many others can as well.
Following the “slot machine” analogy that was portrayed, the specific ways that designers do this interested me. For example, I have never considered the color “red” to be specifically chosen for notifications because they appear more urgent and serious. Naturally, when a person sees the color red, their attention is grabbed and they feel the need to address it. Designers, knowing this, have been able to manipulate our perception of how important a notification actually is.
Taking in all of what I learned and was reminded of in this speech, I can truthfully say that I have changed some behaviors of mine. Or, more specifically, I have made changes and further restrictions on my phone so that my behavior is forced to change. Due to having already been made aware of the algorithms developers make and the other dangers of apps, I have previously made several edits in my settings and removed apps to make things less burdensome for myself. However, I managed to delete a few more apps, turn off notifications for apps that I do not need to be updated on, and reorganize in my home screen in a way that makes my most used apps less visible. Furthermore, on apps such as Instagram, I try to teach the algorithm to show me what it is good for me to see, rather than what is not. In doing this, I have the hope of not going on certain apps as much simply because they are not the first thing I see on my home screen. Whether or not it will be effective is still to be discovered, but I firmly believe that myself and many others should take the appropriate steps to control social media instead of allowing it to control us.