Your Addiction to Being Online? It’s Part of the Design


Freddie DeBoer, reflecting on how your addiction to being online is part of the design:

Here’s what I know: the mindset I have partially and slowly left behind is the product of choice, and not my choice.

It’s a point that I cannot stress enough, and it’s one that I think should be far more common, prevalent, and pressing than it is today. Silicon Valley is constantly in the process of manipulating your brain chemistry to suit its ends. Deliberately and directly. Tech companies spend untold millions of dollars engineering ways to alter your mind. The way online life changes the way you think is not an accident; it is the result of a very conscious and nefarious decision by powerful corporations to monetize the malleability of our psychological selves. When you feel like you can’t stop checking Facebook every 5 minutes, when you stare at your iPhone despite knowing you’re being rude in doing so, when you lie awake at night on Instagram even though you’ve made up your conscious mind not to do so . . .  these things are happening because engineers have set out to manipulate you. They have control over you. Real control. None of it is an accident, and all of it is done because it is profitable.

That we have gone along with this strikes me as one of the darkest turns in our collective cultural memory. And the change has been, to many people, unambiguously a bad one; so, so many people who are permanently online will tell you matter-of-factly that they derive far more unhappiness from online life than they do happiness. If you don’t believe me, ask around. Go on Twitter. Ask people: does this network, on balance, bring you pleasure? I suspect most will admit that it doesn’t. Certainly if all the gallows humor is to be believed the answer is no. Yet people continue to participate despite this knowledge. Cool kid Twitter has, for a very long time, struck me as an unbearably sad place; all the irony and jokes and memes paper over a desperate and directionless unhappiness. They may farm likes and retweets, and they may address the whole world from a stance of derisive and disaffected superiority. But they’re not happy people.

You can read the whole thing here.


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