Worldwide Addiction: Tech Companies engineering their apps to keep us hooked


By Miguel Laureano and Tyler Miller

How many times did you check your phone today? Two, ten times? And how many of those times did you have a notification? All the time, half the time? Regardless of the number of times we check our phone and have notification, the point is that we all check our phones. However, we may think it is because we are deciding to do so, but in reality the apps were designed to make us do so.

According to the segment on 60 Minutes “What is ‘Brain Hacking’? Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care” by Anderson Cooper, app developers and tech companies do not sell their product to us, we get to use them free of charge and in exchange they sell our eyes/attention to advertisers who actually pay companies like Snapchat and Facebook. Because the more time a person spends on an app the more advertising money the tech company makes, the goal becomes “getting attention at all costs.”  

Tristan Harris, an ex Google employee gave the example of our phones being slot machines, in that “every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, ‘What did I get?’…What you do is you make it so when someone pulls a lever, sometimes they get a reward, an exciting reward.” The thought of having notifications, likes, retweets, or snapping back to not lose streaks keep people constantly engaging with applications. The fight for attention by tech companies is a “race to the bottom of the brainstem” where the “most primitive emotions we have…fear, anxiety, loneliness” target anyone, anywhere in the world, who uses these apps.

Here in the United States, it’s no surprise that social media plays an enormous role in all our lives.  Apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc. dominate in popularity in America, but this is not always the case around the world. In the US, social media is mainly used for entertainment, connecting with friends. In other countries, social media platforms do not have as big of a presence and are not always used for the same reasons.  

This article interviews various people from various countries about the presence of social media in their world and what they mainly use it for.  Facebook and Twitter are, for the most part, the most popular media platforms in all countries, but many countries have differences in the popular apps used following these two.  In the UK, Pinterest is a rapidly growing platform.  In Peru, Instagram is not very popular.  In Spain, some use social media all the time and some never use it at all.  

Most countries aren’t as dependent on social media as we seem to be in the US. Just by simply crossing a border, there is a whole different environment when it comes to social media usage.  

The world is complex and constantly changing, culture is a key puzzle in gaining people’s attention but there is no doubt tech companies will make all attempts to steal the attention of those that haven’t yet used their services.



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