The Psychological Tricks Keeping You Online


In every small action you make throughout
your day, there’s an illusion of choice: that you’re acting however you like. Though if you look through a different lens,
you can see that your world has been designed for you to interact with it in a certain way. Take this cup, for example. I use it so effortlessly. But what about this one? It’s obviously terrible! Good design is one that you don’t even notice. Because designers predict how humans intuitively
interact with objects and design them with a cue that leads to an action. And the same principles are true in the digital
world. A ding is to grab your attention. The colour red is to alert you. A notification is to click. Just like everyday objects, our devices are
designed with our psychology in mind. But they seem to be pushing it too far. Technology plays psychological tricks on you… every single day. Most objects – like a toothbrush – are
designed specifically to help me easily use them to reach my goal. After their job is done, they go away. A door’s goal is to let you through, a cup’s
goal is to let you drink, a phone’s goal is to let you talk, but what is Facebook’s
goal? In this case, the goal of a company may not
be in line with the goal of you, the user. Facebook and I, for example, agree on one
thing: helping me stay connected with my social circle. But Facebook, arguably, has another goal:
keeping me online as long as possible, to increase time on site and increase ad revenue. Imagine if other common tools kept you using
them indefinitely. Yet, I check my phone 100 times a day, according
to an app I recently installed that tracks how often I check emails, Instagram, Twitter
and so on. And I wouldn’t say that spending 25% of
my waking life on my phone is one of my goals! Yet studies suggest most other people also
average at that number. And it’s making them unhappy and distracted. “Well, according to facebook’s own published
research by their own researchers that they’re paying the service makes people sad. It makes people anxious. According to other researchers, it increases
suicide, especially in people going through puberty, uh, teenager’s. According to other research it increases,
uh, ethnic and societal division, tensions and warfare and violence in many parts of
the world…” Then why don’t we throw our phones out the
window and deactivate our social media accounts? Some people like to blame our collective tech
addiction on personal failings, like weak willpower. But others, a growing number of tech designers
are now arguing that it’s the software itself that’s to blame. “The very people who have designed these
systems have often come out years later saying we deliberately used addictive algorithms. Sean Parker, first president of facebook has
said this. So this is not really a matter of paranoid
interpretation. This is simply restating what has been said
on the record by the people who created the systems.” Now this is called persuasive design. It can keep you hooked – but some tech designers
say this is beneficial. “So all sorts of habit forming products
both offline and online, uh, use these persuasive design principles that I’ve encapsulated in
this model called the hooked model, which has these four basic steps of a trigger, an
action, a reward, and finally an investment. And it’s not just our technology that use
this model, all sorts of products. What makes a television show interesting or
a book a memorable read or what makes you want to watch a movie or sports match the
same exact psychology that’s used to make anything engaging is also used in these devices
that we use everyday to keep us scrolling and checking in and reading.” These principles were born out of Stanford’s
Persuasive Technology Lab, founded by BJ Fogg. And they started out quite innocently. The idea was to use technology to drive positive
behaviour, like, to quit smoking or pick up exercise. “What is it that makes a behaviour become
automatic? In other words, become a habit?” I think Fogg, his biggest contribution was
that he was kind of the catalyst for a lot of folks in the industry coming together at
the right time and right place. So the Fogg model basically says b equals
mat: motivation, ability and a trigger are the drivers of behaviour. Notice by the way, that the user has to have
some kind of motivation. This is incredibly important because there’s
a big difference between persuasion, which is helping people do things they want to do,
where they need some amount of motivation and coercion. Coercion is always unethical, right? This is persuasive design, not coercive design. Let’s take a step back and consider how
this persuasion – the motivations and triggers – can play out in your everyday experience
online. Let’s say, in the context of you watching
this video, you might become motivated to share this knowledge with your friends to
look smart. Now I can prompt you to tweet out this video. “Perhaps, you’d like to take a moment
to share this with your friends. Go on” There’s your trigger. And to increase your ability, I can make it
all easier by even providing some suggested text and a link [link appears on screen. A prompt to tweet or open a notification seems
simple enough. But they also serve as a cue that leads to
an action of us falling down a YouTube rabbit hole or spend hours zombie scrolling on Instagram. These triggers change our behaviour patterns. “Well, if you put a rat or a dog or a person
in a cage and you can observe exactly what they do, you can use algorithms to change
their behaviour patterns. You can get them addicted to pressing a button
over and over again for candy. You can get them to change their ways. It’s, it’s a science that’s been studied for
centuries now. It goes back to the 19th century” This is not a newly understood phenomenon. It comes straight out of classical psychology. We develop a special relationship to things
that we associate with pleasure, even if the momentary feel-good pleasure of a notification. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? In the 1890s, Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov
discovered that if he rings a bell every time he feeds the dogs in his lab, they would begin
to salivate at the sound of the bell, even without any food in sight. The dogs’ brains had paired a neutral stimulus,
the bell ring, with an involuntary behaviour, salivating. This is classical conditioning and it explains
why when we hear a phone chime we reflexively reach out to our phones. But a notification is not always something
you’re glad to see. This makes the reward unpredictable, making
it all the more alluring to keep looking for it. This phenomenon is called operant conditioning. It is the most effective way of forming and
maintaining a behaviour. It’s also the basis of addiction. Many of us may not need to commit to a rehab
clinic. But still, our digital behaviours can have
large impact on our lives. And this impact isn’t always helpful. In mid 2018, Technologist James Williams asked,
“Who would continue to put up with a GPS that they knew would take them somewhere other
than where they wanted to go? … No one would put up with this sort of
distraction from a technology that directs them through physical space. Yet we do precisely this, on a daily basis,
when it comes to the technologies that direct us through informational space.” We tolerate being mislead through our information
space because, when our technology is designed well, we don’t even notice. Now: Is this just good design and your responsibility
to navigate… Or are we being manipulated? I think the better approach here is to recognise
that nobody fully understood what was happening as we got into this problem. Some people understood a little sometimes
and a little more as time went on. Um, I do think personal responsibility is
the way forward and that’s why people should delete their accounts to learn about themselves. For most of us, unplugging entirely is almost
never an option. But we can recognise the design tricks and
reverse them. Remove the triggers – like turn off push
notifications. Reduce your ability – so delete apps you
don’t really need. Or put your phone out of reach. And think hard about your motivation: direct
your attention to what you really care about. The same methods that make Snapchat addictive,
help you learn new languages on Duolingo. The same thrill of endless swiping of Tinder
also exist in this app, Find Shadow, that’s for finding lost dogs and returning them to
their humans. Which app you open is your choice. We can all be more mindful about how we use
technology. Because, If we’re just left to our own devices,
any of us can become that dog… staring at the screen because a bell can ring at any
second. Now if I still have your attention, this is
the second episode in a six part quest in understanding the psychology of attention,
persuasive design and how we can all have a healthier relationship with technology. I do hope you’ll join us, in your own time,
at your own pace, to consider the impact tech is having on your everyday life.




Comments
  1. tl;dw it’s a good idea to turn off auto play on YouTube, limit notifications to what you really care about, and even bundle apps that are not essential tools (like maps or messages) and move them to the second page of your phone screen. I installed an app called Moment and it was surprising — I knew I spent a good amount of time on my phone, but some days I was spending 4 hours on apps that aren’t really necessary. That’s a LOT of my attention.

    So, if good design nudges your behaviour every single day — in the case of technology, should companies tell you what those design tricks are? Should design be more ethical? Or is it your responsibility to navigate?

  2. There is a rough historical analogy here. That of the letter of warning sent to Roosevelt by 70 scientists of the Manhattan Project on July 17, 1945. They warned him of the atomic bomb's horrific potential for devastation, along with urging that it never be used on a city. And, one more thing. They warned that if it was developed, the inevitable outcome would be nuclear proliferation.

    One is an existential
    threat; sudden, obvious, and final. The other is insidious; slow moving, opaque, and inscrutable in its capacity to dispossess its victims of personal agency. For some, worse than dying outright.

  3. What is Free Will are you a slave to your emotions a slave to what you learned. Or even a slave to Logic. Or a slave to Chance

  4. What is Free Will are you a slave to your emotions a slave to what you learned. Or even a slave to Logic. Or a slave to Chance

  5. What is Free Will are you a slave to your emotions a slave to what you learned. Or even a slave to Logic. Or a slave to Chance

  6. The only thing I use notifications for is when someone replies int the same comment thread as me. As for watching youtube videos, I just go through my subscriptions page and watch what I want.

  7. … yah tho Whitout Notification I wouldn't have saw this video probably… So there that. What is good and what bad is alwas quite hard to tell.
    Tho I would say this Talk for exemple I really like video game (yah sure for the reward to the mind but also just because how they can be … Well Story there a reason ppl like story and it not because of any real reward. It because it can help see other ppl opinions Game let you go into someone else mind probably even more than a Video or a book.) yah sure you got some control on your character but even than I would argue it isn't a bad idea It help you form your owen opinion about the story told to you insteed of forceing the creator will on you…
    Tho to be fair There is some game that should probably be look at like there some site that should probably be look at. (Exemple: Game whit free to play model that got really good at keeping you play the game over and over for "daylie reward" AKA makeing it easy for you to make a habit out of it. Same could be said for Web site tho Giveing you reward in the form of an interesting story/info/etc.
    But any way That just my opinion
    SORRY FOR THE BAD ENGLISH also nice work on that video quite well done.

  8. Pavlov is at a bar, drinking a beer and he hears someone's phone go off. He suddenly gets up and says "Oh, crap, I forgot to feed the dog!"

  9. Am I the only one that left social media years ago when I saw that it was negatively affecting my life? I now only use YouTube on my computer instead of watching TV or Netflix as it seems to be the most benign of the attention grabbers. I have no notifications on my laptop or PC. I also got rid of my smart phone. I have found that online classes are useful ways to have fun instead of playing games and yet I still feel like I have not done enough.

  10. Know what else gives you a real addictive buzz? When you comment on someone's video and then YouTube tells you that they <3 it.

  11. Sometimes you don't really have to delete your accounts, all you need to do is to forget the password. If you were as lucky as me and didn't set up proper password recovery options, your problems slowly drift away.

  12. The Browser Addons DF YouTube (Distration Free) removes all distrations from youtube.
    "Allow yourself to focus while using YouTube for work, recreation or education. Disable autoplay, remove sidebar, hide feed, comments, and more."

  13. It's surprising to me that it hasn't been mentioned the new tools that Apple and Google provide on the new versions of iOS and Android. You don't need to install any app to know how much time you spend on the phone and in apps, and how many pickups you do during the day, it all comes with the system now! And the best part is that you can limit the system easily, go and limit the time on Facebook, it's super easy and it helps you control your behaviour. I'm really happy that companies like Apple are helping us fight this attention war.

  14. Another great video. I still don't understand how people can't put down facebook, twitter etc. I check twitter once or twice a week. Facebook once a day, to contact parts of my family who live far away. Snapchat was deleted within minutes of installing. I found it too annoying to use. My phone is usually on silent. It's a tool for me to use when I want to, not when other people want me.
    Maybe I'm different in that I want to spend my time doing what I want rather than waiting to see what others are doing. When scrolling through facebook to catch up on family posts, most of it is inane rubbish. I don't care what or where you ate earlier or seeing the same meme for the seventh time today. I want to know that family and friends are okay. I need an app that displays people's status as a red, amber or green icon. Green is doing well, amber is not bad, I might benefit from a chat. Red is person isn't doing well. Then I can see at a glance that people are fine, and the odd occasion the icons change colour I can get in touch. If any of the people I know are drama fiends, I can mark them as such and the app automatically upgrades their icon colour by one.
    This would give me an at a glance view of the people I care about and a clear indication on who needs my attention without the clutter of memes, posts to save invented people by clicking like or the propagation of bad facts or advice.

  15. I've been into technology as long as I can remember. First coded a computer in 1979. Hardly been a time I haven't owned a computer since 1982.
    I understand technology. I know what it's good at and what it's no so good at.
    My phone is normally on silent. I don't jump to attention at every notification. I don't use any personal assistant apps, because I like as much control over my life as I can get. I can make my own decisions and plans, I don't need an AI telling me what to do or making suggestions about what it thinks I want to do. I also have no home automation, not just because of poor security but mainly because I like to do things myself.
    As for Faecebook (sic) I have a Lite version installed on my phone with all notifications turned off. I use it when I want to interact with people, not with Faecebook. On the web browser I use a plugin called Social Fixer which allows me to hide crap I don't want to see, and I have the App Platform turned off so no third party connections. If it wasn't for the people I keep in touch with via Faecebook I would have deleted my account a long time ago.
    I guess I can be manipulated, but I recognise a lot of it and actively fight against it. I think the older I get, the more cynical I get 😉

  16. I love your channel, it just motivated me to push the bell, so I know 😎 😀 But also inspired me to really get through all channels I am subscribe to and let the bell only on very few one <3

  17. I firmly believe that autonomous cars are less about safety and more about keeping our eyes on screens. If the agencies pushing this ungodly expensive and temperamental technology on to consumers really cared about our safety, tobacco would be illegal.

  18. This is all very meta, using the methods outlined in persuasive technology to “persuade” us into coming back 4 more times to get the full story. More engagement, more videos to click that like button on and more advertising plugs than in 1 long video

  19. Wait, so most of the video talks about how the things are explicitely designed to be malicious, and then by the end, your conclusion is that the onus is strictly on the individual to work around that malicious design?

    The designers get away scot-free, and if you're too weak to walk around their traps, tough luck!

  20. See the September 2017 issue of National Geographic. Months of a cocaine addiction clinic therapy did nothing. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation worked according to the article. The article argues addiction is not a matter of morality but a treatable medical condition. A brain must be balanced for personal responsibility (the illusion of free will) to work. Without parts of the brain like the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex putting messages from the striatum into perspective with its rationalizations, a persons actions are more likely to come from more primitive areas of the brain such as the striatum. Medical therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation can start to grow back areas of the brain which may have been reduced from the stress of modern society or military combat.

  21. Really useful video! Internet psychology should be more exposed…. don't forget the thumbs up or else no one will like you! :))))

  22. Personal Responsibility is absolute, using your logic for unfairness anything that elicits a dopamine response including chocolate, cigarettes, coffee should be regulated what kind of world that be where wenfantilise people. Even Jaron Lanier is an addict in another sense as he is quite obese maybe we should regulate pizza and snickers using his logic. This whole situation is ridiculous.

  23. I'm surprised it didn't work on me. Not on facebook, kind of have never been (had it, barely visited, eventually deleted). It makes me wonder how people can even be functional while having such things, I'm barely functional and I don't even have e-mail alerts.

  24. Long comment ahead. TL;DR I've got an addiction issue on my hands.

    This series is so timely. I was just talking to a friend of mine last night about this.

    I kicked the FB habit a while ago, after I become incredibly concerned about their less-than-ethical privacy policies. Twitter has become a cesspool that I can't tolerate, and I just never got into Instagram.

    However, I'm completely addicted to YouTube.

    There was a comment, on Wheezy Waiter's video about giving up the internet for a month, that was a big a-ha moment for me. The person said they got off social media when they realized it was killing their creativity. I had been trying to figure out why my creative drive is just about gone, and yup, it started to tank when I seriously dived into YouTube. This is what I do for entertainment, for hours upon hours per day. I passively consume videos instead of actively pursuing things I enjoy.

    After talking to my friend, I realized this is damaging my self-esteem and pleasure in life. If I want to increase my self-esteem, I need to do esteemable things, and watching YouTube videos all the time is not esteemable. I have zero sense of accomplishment and pride in doing this.

    Here's the thing though: The thought of limiting my time here feels painful. That's how I know I'm addicted right now. I mean, when YouTube went down a couple of weeks ago, I felt, well, lost. I have a large number of possibilities for things I can do for entertainment, and none of them sounded good. Not drawing, not painting, not reading, not even Netflix. That's not right.

    What's worse is that even knowing all of this, I don't really want to stop. I don't even have auto-play on, but dang, that Recommended algorithm knows exactly what I'm interested in. There's about 5 videos right now in the sidebar that I want to watch.

    I know that I'm going to have to force myself to get off of here. I also know it's going to feel hard, while I get those neural pathways recalibrated. And I pretty much hate that I'm going to have to work at it. Passive consumption is just so easy. The designers absolutely knew what they were doing here.

  25. 3:57 WTF is he talking about? A book is DESIGNED to keep you hooked? A fridge is designed to keep you hooked? The Bible maybe?
    Guys like him ARE the problem. Smart, OBEDIENT to authority, GREEDY for power and money but not smart enough to realize and accept that are other people as smart or smarter. Not many, but enough to debunk that bullshit.

  26. Instagram is great and awful place… you browse and see beautiful people that are not real so I search for terms that hopefully not show them like death, depression, suicide or cats…

  27. I really appreciate videos like this that encourage mindfulness with technology.

    I work with social media promotion so I’m unfortunately a bit trapped by notifications, however, I have my phone set to ‘do not disturb’ from 9pm to 8am. This allows me to self direct my consumption without notifications ‘pushing’ me to other platforms.

    Also, Bluetooth headphones allow me to multitask while watching videos. This means I can consume videos, podcasts and audiobooks while still packing the dishwasher and cooking. This leads to a greater sense of accomplishment while still being educated or entertained.

    Thank you for this new channel. I will be subscribing and adding notifications, not so I can be ‘persuaded’, but mindful of when I can choose to be informed by your content.

  28. Wow. Totally watching the next 4 parts, Nessy.
    What you said at the end about staring at our screens – that's me. If none of my friends are on discord, I will sit around for quite a while in the hope that a friend will come on to interact with.
    Can see the patterns you're talking about if I analyse my habits when I get home:
    – Drape jacket over kitchen chair,
    – Walk into computer room, Take shoes and socks off, Sit at computer,
    – Open Chrome, type "fa" in address bar to bring up Facebook, go through new Facebook notifications, go through Facebook wall, go into Youtube, check Youtube subscriptions for new videos of interest, watch new videos of interest/no new videos of interest then maybe something in Facebook will occupy my attention- bugger I was in Facebook 2 minutes ago when nothing was there….
    maybe I can check if I have any cool emails there… well I received one response to something I was waiting on and deleted some spam… now what?… maybe there's something good to watch on Youtube… check subscriptions for new vide I was here less than 2 minutes ago! Ok, Facebook… I've done this… why am I checking Facebook again so soon?? 🙁 🙁 🙁

  29. Don't tech companies have at least some responsibility? Yes, it's great that we can turn off notifications and set time limits on apps now, but it seems like there is way more app companies could do… like make their goal to help people rather than get people addicted to checking their phone? When you open the Facebook app, you are forced to see the news feed unless you cover it with your hand and open something else really quickly. All of the messaging apps now (besides the default one that comes with your phone) have 'stories' now and there's no way to remove that feature. It would be easy to say 'just delete your social media', but it's not that simple when you have friends who live abroad in other countries with poor internet and Facebook is the easiest way to get in touch with each other. And speaking of this, what do you say to people living in poverty stricken countries where Facebook is free (no internet connection needed) and a much cheaper alternative than access to the rest of the internet with a slow data plan? Sure, companies can do whatever they want. So can governments, who also have the ability to influence and control society. Big tech companies have a responsibility to do what is right.

  30. Your smart is absolutely the most stunning thing going on web wide …and that's a long list of goings on! Thank you. Please never stop making these videos. You are one of the brightest stars among a constellation of lovely and brilliant souls, again, thank you.

  31. This video was pretty interesting, but left me with a couple of questions in regards to Jaron Lanier's statements about Facebook and suicide.
    When Jaron Lanier says "it increases suicide,"
    1) to what research is he referring?
    2) does he mean "increases suicide" or "increases the risk of suicide?" From my understanding, those two statements are very different, with the former implying that there is research that has demonstrated clear cause and effect and the latter meaning there is a correlation.

  32. This may be a funny question to ask but what's that app you mentioned that tracks how often you check your phone? I'm of the opinion that I do so much less often than most but I'd like to see it in proper numbers rather than just my feeling

  33. I really like these mini series, which are going deeper into subjects, like this and Bad Behaviour: A Field Guide. I hope you get to make more of them in the future

  34. An honest question, how do you bring up this sort of thing with a family member? I have two members in my extended family that almost constantly need some sort of stimulus, whether from their phone, laptop, or Kindle. It makes them incredibly boring to be around, but I'm not quite sure how to bring it up.

  35. Man I just watch some educational YouTube videos (for the most part), listen to music and learn about math and physics online. Man 6 hours a day! Hope some of these hours are productive…

  36. More connected than ever yet its harder by the day to not be lonely. Ive chosen to embrace loneliness and focus on improving myself. Still though it feels like a peice is missing from modern digital life.

  37. Your videos and this series are just fabulous. Thanks for helping us to understand the social media strategies and specially Facebook 🙂 👏😀😀

  38. i couldn't agree more with the "limit notifications" and "turn off autoplay" options.
    The rest I also agree with, but those two messages should be standard guidelines at any elementary school and with parenting.

  39. I logged out of my instagram account 4 days ago and they've already sent me two emails trying to get me to come back… I was pretty shocked!

  40. I deactivated Facebook about 5 days ago indefinitely, and this video made me chuckle.
    Took me a while to understand what is happening, and I am a software engineer working with algorithms.

    I was posting 10 things each day, spending at least 2-3 hours a day on social media.

    At least remove the most toxic ones, Twitter, Reddit and Youtube are left.

  41. The mindless masses. people have no direction and tsocial media provides a means to fill the void. People use to be consumed at just survival. We also have no sense of community ans socislp media fulfills that void too. It is simple. Let loose mor sabertooth tigers……..

  42. I turn off all my notifications for most apps. But guess what… Facebook doesn't allow you to turn off your notifications permanently. No, no, no. They will reactivate in 8 hours automatically. Because of this I have to put my entire phone on silent, and potentially miss important calls.

  43. I got a facebook and use it for about two or three minute before it bored me. I don't get what is so addicting about it.

  44. Notifications annoy me. It's an almost OCD response in that anything with a red notification needs to be removed. I always turn off push notifications on apps that allow me to. It's the least helpful feature on smart phones for me.

  45. I turned off notifications for social media and emails a while ago and it helps. However when I do get around to looking (too often!) I still end up falling down the thumb scroll rabbit hole 🙁

  46. honestly sometimes theres literally nothing to watch on youtube but i just keep fucking scrolling and refreshing without any goal

  47. I had this in the background while doing other stuff, promptly noticed the irony and I'll continue with the next episode later

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