How Google and Facebook Hooked Us—and How to Break the Habit

The title of this post is identical to the title of a post by Douglas Heaven in the Features section of the 10 February 2018 issue of the New Scientist.

In 2009 Justin Rosenstein created Facebook’s “Like” Button. Now he has dedicated himself to atoning for it. Martin Moore of King’s College London said, “Just a few years ago, no one could say a bad word about the tech giants. Now no one can say a good word.” The author writes, “Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon variously avoid tax, crush competition, and violate privacy, the complaints go. Their inscrutable algorithms determine what we see and what we know, shape opinions, narrow world views and even subvert the democratic order that spawned them.”

“Facebook knew right from the start it was making something that would exploit vulnerabilities in our psychology. Behavior design for persuasive tech, a discipline found at Stanford University in California in the 1990s, is baked into much of big tech’s hardware and software. Whether it is Amazon’s “customers who bought this also bought function”, or the eye-catching red or orange “something new” dots on you smartphone app icons, but tech’s products are not just good, but subtly designed to control us, even to addict us — to grab us by the eyeballs and hold us there.”

The article goes on and develops this theme further. Here are data points offered in the article. There are 2 billion Active Facebook Users. 88% of Google’s 2017 income came from advertising. 20% of global spending on advertising goes to Facebook and Google.

And these products have been used to interfere with democracy and to subvert elections.

The article goes on and discusses various regulatory approaches for dealing with these problems, but warns about unintended consequences.

The most telling point follows: “But if big tech’s power is based entirely on our behavior, the most effective brake on their influence is to change our own bad habits.” This point has long been advocated in the healthy memory blog. The web is filled with tips for tuning out as is the healthy memory blog. Entering “technology addiction” will lead you to ways to free yourself from this addiction. Entering “Mary Aiken” will lead you to many posts based on her book “The Cyber Effect,” which you might find are well worth your time.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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