Back in 1928, Edward Bernays used his uncle Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories to elevate propaganda and advertising to new heights.
Often known as the father of modern advertising, Bernays found a way to use psychoanalysis to manipulate people into buying both commodities and ideas.
Now, in keeping with the unethical use of the science of the mind, psychology is being used to promote social media addiction.
It isn’t news that social media is addictive. Multiple documentaries and news reports have emerged over the past few years about social-media rehab. We also all know that person who can’t make a sandwich without posting a pic of it on Instagram.
The reasons behind the addiction, however, are more insidious than we suspected. The Telegraph reports that:
Social media giants are employing “unethical” psychologists to keep children hooked online for hours on end, industry experts have warned.
Fifty psychologists in the US have penned an open letter saying their profession is being used “to manipulate children for profit”.
The letter said the “persuasive design” of social networks and video games was keeping children glued to the point that studies now showed it was affecting their mental wellbeing and academic attainment.
You can read the above mentioned letter in full HERE. In the meantime, here’s a summary:
The signatories called on the American Psychological Association, which represents the profession in the US, to condemn psychologists’ role in developing such techniques.
The open letter comes as The Telegraph has launched the Duty of Care campaign calling for more stringent regulation of social media networks, in order to protect children from harm.
In recent years, a number of former social media employees have spoken out against the methods employed to keep people hooked, including but not limited to the hellish rabbit hole that is clickbait. And let’s not forget the ego-feeding ‘like’ button on Facebook.
Justin Rosenstein, who first built Facebook’s iconic ‘Like’ button in 2007, has since described the feature as creating “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that have helped create “a problem at a civilisation scale”.
The 35-year-old has now banned himself from certain social networks, such as Snapchat, which he compares to heroin.
The creator of the “pull to refresh” feature, Loren Brichter, has also expressed regret over his innovation and called it “addictive”.
Psychologists are now rallying against those in their profession who are helping to develop the persuasive design techniques that keep people, and especially children, hooked.
“There is nothing unethical about using psychologists,” he said. “But what is unethical is when you have a product that is consumptive and causes a problem in a minority of people and you do nothing about it.
“There is a fine line between customer enhancement and exploitation. Anything were you are deliberately trying to get every penny out of a person can be seen as exploitative.”
He said that teengers and children were particularly susceptible when it came to developing problems with overuse.
“Children’s brains are still developing and when young people do things they find it more exciting,” added Dr Griffith.
Harking back to the days of Bernays, the more you scroll, the more you can be advertised too, and the more ads you see, the more likely it is that you’ll start spending.
If you feel like a digital detox is in order, you might want to check out these off-the-grid hotels. Unplugging for a while could be better than therapy.
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