Social media companies are hijacking our minds by exploiting psychological vulnerabilities to manipulate and control our time and attention. That may sound dramatic, but it’s exactly what former employees of these companies, like Facebook cofounder Sean Parker, are beginning to admit. Like fast-food companies that exploit our human cravings for fat and salt, social media companies aren’t inherently evil. However, to remain healthy and in control, we should be alert to their methods and wary of our dependency on their platforms. This list details some of the ways that social media companies exploit human vulnerabilities to maintain our attention and make a profit. The color red is associated with danger and warning. Studies on schoolchildren have found that kids perform how Does Social Media Websites Make Money when given test booklets with red covers rather than black or green.
Researchers suggest that this occurs because the color red is associated nonconsciously with avoidance behavior. The first Facebook notification icons were blue, matching the style of the site. Initially, nobody used these notifications until the icon color was changed to red. The red icon color was so effective that thousands of apps use red icons today to encourage users to open them.
Often, an early predictor of these rewards, such as a notification or phone buzz, is enough to prompt a rush of dopamine. By including a tool for users to receive social validation, social media companies make users want to return to their platforms to receive more positive reinforcement. The nucleus accumbens, which is the part of the brain responsible for craving, is most active when it is anticipating an award. Variable ratios of reinforcement, where the subject is not certain if an action will be followed by a reward, is the most effective way of developing a craving.
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How Does Social Media Websites Make Money
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This is because people are fascinated with the unknown and will fixate on an unknown outcome for longer. The classic example of a device which uses variable reward systems is a casino slot machine. It is argued that this mechanism makes people become addicted to gambling. Social media companies use variable reward systems to encourage people to crave their platforms. The Twitter app uses a pull-down method to update content. This device is no longer instrumental as Twitter could automatically post new content, but the method generates craving by building anticipation for what the new content may be while it loads.
All social media sites with newsfeeds, like Facebook and Twitter, use variable reward systems by mixing interesting and uninteresting content. To find interesting content, a person must continue to scroll. Scrolling uses the same psychology as a gambling slot machine because people are motivated to continue searching for the next reward. These companies want people to continue scrolling through feeds and searching for rewards as it means they’ll stay on the platform longer and see more advertised content. People are more likely to use social media when they’re experiencing a negative emotion, such as boredom or vulnerability, because engaging with social media provides a distraction from these feelings.