Don’t get me wrong. Sure, social media can be good. You get to connect with friends and family virtually which is great, especially during a year like 2020. On the other hand, it's dangerous, creepy, and addictive.
Think about the social apps you spend the most amount of time on. How much time did you spend on them? Have you ever checked your average daily screen time? According to Zenith, Americans spend an average of 3.5 hours on their phones. That’s more time than it takes to grocery shop, meal prep, or workout.What drives this behavior? Turns out, social media apps are full of features that are designed to manipulate your thoughts and behavior to spend more time on the app.
Here are some of the features you might notice:
These are the notifications that will try to get you to open the app. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, at first glance you may think “How helpful!”. But a more insidious rationale is actually behind this- increased awareness and entry points. How many times have you gotten the Instagram push notification that says someone you follow added to their stories? Probably hundreds of times. Did you care? Likely not. These don’t work on everyone, but they work on some people and that’s why the feature still exists. Pro tip: These notifications can be turned off or adjusted in your settings if you don’t want to let them get to you.
Slot Machine Effect
Have you ever noticed the similarity between using a slot machine and refreshing your social feeds? It’s basically identical. No matter how many times you refresh your feed, the platforms are designed to always show something new to keep you entertained. Who knows what posts you’ll see next?Classic addictive behavior move.
When you post something, how many times do you look at your phone to see how many likes you have so far? Everyone’s guilty of doing this every time your phone lights up. It gets you right back to the app and the positive reinforcement feeds your addiction. Studies show this literally produces a dopamine hit in your brain. Receiving likes makes you happy and now you’re going to post more because you want more likes.
When you watch a video or like a post and the platform starts learning what you like, it will start suggesting videos to watch or groups you might like to join. The real goal? Increase time spent within the platform. How easy is it to fall down a rabbit hole on YouTube? So easy, it’s scary.
Ads are all over social media now. Once you click on one, the platform will start gaining more info about what you like and start feeding you more related to your interests. You might think to yourself that Facebook for example is trying to help you find more things you like. Wrong. Actually, these social platforms are trying to figure out exactly what you like to sell your information to companies.
Snapchat lives on streaks. It turned usage into a competition among users to see who can get the longest streak. This “gamification” is designed to keep you coming back. After all, if you’re trying to keep a streak with one or more friends, it’s getting you to use the app at least once a day.
Now that you’re aware of some of the many tricks social media apps can play on you, see if you notice any of these features or others and fightback against the spell! Have you fallen for any of these?