Social Media and Teens are like Peanut Butter and Jelly.
They’re just inseparable right?
What if I told you Silicon Valley deliberately spends gazillions of dollars a year in hiring the best scientists in the world to secretively take control of your children’s mind (and heck, us also).
Makes your skin crawl a little, huh?
Well they do and we’re going to discuss the 10 ways they do today.
But mom and dad, before we freak the heck out, let me also let you know we can beat these mad scientists.
- Once you let your kids know what they’re doing, we know they hate being controlled right? Just tell them to clean their room. <wink>
- We love Social Media because of the Dopamine rush. But did you know that physical one-on-one communication releases a ton of dopamine? It does, so mom and dad, let those conversations begin.
Now, we’ll go over both of these in a moment, but first let’s go over what these mad scientists are up to.
Social Media and Teens – The Top 10 Hijacks
Tristan Harris an ex Google Design Ethicist shared in a brilliant post, the 10 ways Social Media companies deliberately hijack our minds without us knowing.
Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices
Without even realizing it, we are being given a specific menu of choices that we blindly accept before even considering that there might be other (even better options). A question like, “who’s free to hang out tonight?” becomes a menu of the people we most recently texted. Or “What’s happening in the world” becomes a menu of stories from our favorite news sources.
Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets
Every time we pull out our phone or open our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new notifications and emails we’ve received. There could be nothing (as there often is with slots in real life), but the possibility of “what if” keeps us going back for more.
Hijack #3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI)
With this hijack, you can’t unsubscribe from an email or delete Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram off your phone… because what if you miss some important news story or fall behind on something that’s happened with friends.
Hijack #4: Social Approval
Facebook makes suggestions for people to tag their friends in pictures… which naturally happens. But then once those tags are in place, the people tagged are notified, as they are every time someone likes or comments on it. And each time, the user is pulled right back onto the platform to engage. While everyone responds to social approval, teens are more vulnerable to this than other groups.
Hijack #5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat)
LinkedIn and Snapchat are obvious offenders for this. LinkedIn gets people to send a connection request or endorse someone by making suggestions and then making it easy with the click of a button. Those people are notified that the action was taken and then feel the need to return to the platform to accept the request, respond to the message or return the favor in some other way.
Side note: this is the picture that Mike took of Gannon with a creepy snapchat filter. (I’m including a normal picture so no one will think the poor kid is really that scary looking.)
Hijack #6: Bottomless bowls, Infinite Feeds, and Autoplay
Social platforms have features like auto-play videos and infinite feeds to make it easy to you to stay on the platforms longer and longer.
Hijack #7: Instant Interruption vs. “Respectful” Delivery
Companies know that if they can interrupt people, they’ll be far more likely to get a response rather than if an email is delivered. It also heightens the sense of urgency and social reciprocity, since Facebook Messenger tells you if someone saw your message.
Hijack #8: Bundling Your Reasons with Their Reasons
This is the equivalent to milk being at the back of the store and requiring you to walk through the entire store to retrieve something that you probably buy on a regular basis. Facebook Events are a good example. In order to see what events are happening, you have to navigate your way past the news feed… without getting sucked in. Which is highly unlikely.
Hijack #9: Inconvenient Choices
Have you ever had a company make it feel almost impossible to cancel? You can sign up for the service online with no difficulty. But cancel? Be prepared to jump through hoops.
Hijack #10: Forecasting Errors, “Foot in the Door” strategies
Have you ever gotten an email or had a notification pop up on your phone that says you were tagged in a post or picture? Of course you have! That’s a “foot in the door” strategy, and it works because they create enormous curiosity.
And once you go back to the platform to see what the photo was, you find that 20 minutes (or more) has passed. (When all you wanted to do was look at that ONE POST.) We get it. The struggle is (legitimately) real.
The Impact of Social Media on the Youth
Social Media doesn’t just impact our youth with it being addictive, but all of us. Harvard shared in a post last year that smartphones are battling for your time and doing so by playing with your brain.
For example, Instagram’s algorithm will sometimes withhold “likes” on photos and deliver them in larger bursts.
As the article explains, “Your dopamine centers have been primed by those initial negative outcomes to respond robustly to the sudden influx of social appraisal.”
On Facebook, when you initially join, your notification center revolves around your initial Facebook connections. But as you use the platform more and more, you interact with other groups, artists and events, causing your notifications to become far more active.
All of these things are, of course, designed to get you back on the platform and keep you there are long as possible.
How to Combat Silicon Valley
First know that social media isn’t completely negative for our youth.
There’s a positive impact of social media on youth. It just has to be a balance to assure it doesn’t become unhealthy. In-fact, Alan Katzman from Social Assurity, shared with us in a previous interview how Social Media can help kids with getting accepting into college or landing the dream job in the future.
There are a few things you can do to curb the technology addiction:
- Unplug daily (and lead by example): Encourage everyone in your family to leave the phones behind for certain activities. And at the very least, make sure phones are silenced and not close at hand during family dinner. Science shows that the hit of dopamine that we get from conversation is greater than the hit we get from technology.
- Make your kids aware that they’re being controlled: No teen wants to be controlled… not even by their device (especially when you make them aware of how they’re being manipulated). Use this as further justification for that cell-free time.
- Turn off notifications: You and your kids are getting a hit of dopamine every time a notification goes off on your phone. And while it may be impractical to keep your phone on silent all the time, you can turn off notifications for certain apps or refuse to check email after a certain time in the evening.
Conclusion: Social Media and Teens
It’s unlikely that either you OR your kids will be doing a major digital detox, where you cut social media out of your lives entirely. That said, it’s important that you’re aware (and that your kids are aware) of the way science and psychology are being used against you in order to keep you on addictive social platforms.
The best thing you can do, outside of just being aware, is:
- Unplug daily
- Make sure your kids are aware they’re being controlled
- Turn off notifications
Which one of these hijacks has the greatest pull on you? Leave us a comment below or join the discussion in our Facebook group.