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You are being manipulated

Kasey Speakman
collector of ideas. no one of consequence.
・1 min read

I wish this were a click-bait title. Sadly not. It is also not trying to push you into a political party or a religion or a business interest. It is an invitation to look at what is being done with our modern media.

Anything I probably want to say in this post is well covered by a documentary called The Social Dilemma. Most of the interviews are with people who made the tech we all use. From management to the developers themselves.

I guess I won't rehearse all the things they presented there. But I will say this about the perceived dividedness that we face today. Media makes the most money by selling you the weapons and motivation to fight your neighbor. Social media does it at scale.

Please watch the documentary so you understand how it is happening. Insert borrowed Netflix password meme here. And as software developers consider how your company is using your creations. And I do not mean ICE using github... I mean something much bigger. Is the business model -- the engine that drives the company -- humane? Or does it data-mine and sell its users to advertisers? That is the fastest way to make money, but it also brings out the worst in humanity. Because what sells best are the things that appeal to our basest instincts.

I heard a song once... went something like this: "Is this the world you want? You're making it." Especially true for developers these days.

Discussion (17)

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stereoplegic profile image
Mike Bybee • Edited

When people were grumbling about a "second civil war" years ago, I told them it would never happen for two reasons:

  1. America's couches are way too comfy.
  2. You speak and act a whole lot differently when you have to look a MFer in the eye. You're not nearly as IDGAF in person as you pretend to be behind your keyboard.

The current craziness is an anomaly, and largely whipped into a froth for political gains (on both "sides" - in quotes because they both want the same thing: power). The fact that everyone has cabin fever clearly isn't helping either.

In 2016/2017, I said something else along with my dismissal of the "second civil war" theory. I advised that people turn off CNN, Fox News, etc., get in their cars, and take a road trip, across as many cities, towns, or even states as they could. What you see, when you do that, is that people from all walks of life tend to get along a lot better than ratings-chasing media want you to believe (again, obviously, this is harder to do right now, but that won't always be the case).

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John Kazer

It's still a broken system though trust people vote for the rabble rousing. Perhaps out of fear of the other side. And I guess a lot of folk don't both to vote at all.

Totally agree about the get out and visit principle. Wish it was easier to talk to people as well, these days.

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stereoplegic profile image
Mike Bybee

A lot of it is fear of other (and too much time spent in echo chambers). When you gang up in groups and shout at each other, any common ground and potential inroads you have with someone on the other side gets homogenized away.

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Renato Byrro

What's motivating me to think is: how did we get to this point where we're so easily manipulated? There's got to be a way to teach individuals to (truly) think for themselves, to have self conciousness and "mental defenses" against these power-seeking manipulation tactics...

I've been studying Logosophy and am very much impressed. It's not a panacea, though. Changing secular things requires a lot of effort. And time...

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Kasey Speakman Author

The mind is a formidable organ, but many states can override the mind's intelligence. Like fear. Most of a soldier's initial training isn't about how to use equipment, but about acclimatizing them to fear, and training them to still be able to operate in its presence.

The imperative to connect with other humans is another instinct that is easily manipulated. The unscrupulous have always used it against their fellow humans. Confidence men, for example. These manipulations are big and cause obvious harm, so they are illegal. The ones that are perpetrated on social media are for pennies of ad revenue (times millions of users). And have effects that are imperceptible in one person. The scale at which they operate instead creates trends in society as a whole. Like polarization.

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Kasey Speakman Author • Edited

A civil war never seriously occurred to me. I mean surely we learned that lesson with great tragedy already. The weapons I mentioned were quips, retorts, and trite sayings. Each side of any given issue provides outrage to motivate you against the other. Then equips you with words to parry and counter attack. This manipulates users at a psychological level to keep them coming back for the next outrage and counterpoint and ad revenue. Media (social or otherwise) makes money and society loses.

"News media" has done this for a while. But social media can now make it happen in a way that's tailored to each individual and at scale.

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John Kazer • Edited

Choose not to work for a negative impact company (although this can be hard to define), or work for a positive impact company (might be easier to define)?
And this is a good article on the science behind some of the social media issues.

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Muhammad Uzair • Edited

I am not sure if i totally understand your point of how we are being manipulated as a developer. But i get to know sometime ago how we ( as users) are manipulated by social media. One of video that make me think was TEDx talk by Cal Newport (author of Deep Work) , few others TEDx talks i watched about information abundance, and use of psychology, surprisingly i found few clips of former Facebook employee (presidents) that it is made to manipulate us. He was talking about that little bell icon notification on Twitter. I thought it might be jealousy or something. Then i heard about Dopamine and how social media use techniques to release it on certain events. Porn industry heavily rely on these stuff, otherwise why would people do weird stuff infront of damn screen (pixels to be precise). I got a nice name for this PIXEL FOOL. Then in lockdown i rarely used Facebook and i am proud of it.

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Kasey Speakman Author

Developers make the most effective forms of mass manipulation. (It started out with good intentions. But it got turned into this.) As developers we are uniquely positioned to mitigate the damage and avoid going down that path in future products. The first step is awareness of what is happening and how it is affecting people and society.

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Muhammad Uzair

I hope i won't , as betraying people by any mean is prohibited in every aspect of life, being human, being a Muslim. But problem could be people are less interested in Educational & useful stuff then Entertainment. How to cope with that could be challenging.

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Marco Damaceno

I watched that documentary last Sunday. Like many other documentaries, it is sensationalist at many points. The truth is we don't know how to deal with that situation without any precedent.

I think it is compared to Industrial Revolution Era when people worked for many hours and it wasn't hard to see children managing dangerous machines. Work conditions were enhanced by law.

Companies are guided by law and money. People by moral and ethics. Unfortunately, we cannot expect sense of moral and ethics from companies if those do not make money.

IMHO

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Daniel J. Summers

All types of media can be deceptive and manipulative (including this one). One of my must-listen podcasts is No Agenda, where the hosts take 3 hours twice a week to deconstruct the media; in the process, you end up with a good idea of what is actually happening, versus the packaged version you're being shown. After you listen for a while, you begin to recognize the deceitful tactics; I've found that it even helps me be more critical of things I hear, whether those things confirm or contradict my currently-held beliefs.

Once you see social networks as dens of competing (albeit mostly unwitting) manipulation, you can identify the characters, the sides, the narratives, etc. It's a totally different experience.

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Sean Antony Brunton

There is a probelm with Americans man.. I mean the general populous. Damn man, you guys have too easy. To defeat America just attack the national grid and keep off for two weeks. You will most definately turn on yourselves.. Hay? Like 14 days no power, Americans will easily go into civil war. I mean social media tears your society right in two😂. One cyber attack on your national grid now? Say Bye bye USA. It amazing how quickly you guys turn on yourself. Life is too easy for you. Take too much for granted. It's easy to beat an American mind. So easy to manipulate and control. Why? You guys don't know the difference between a truth and a lie. No offense. My only problem is when you ouens cause kak with Chinese it affects my business in South Africa. Stop causing kak man. The world needs America to be political stable. It's essential for the whole world that America stays stable. Stop your kak and be mindful.

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Kasey Speakman Author

Several years back there was a 2-3 week power outage in my region. National Guard got called in to prevent looting (because so many people's houses were empty as they stayed elsewhere with power). But civil war? No. If anything a shared disaster usually unites us. You also have to remember that the US is big... there isn't a national grid AFAIK, but lots of regional ones.

As to your other characterizations, I do not think they generally hold true.

It might seem silly, but the problem we are talking about has real negative effects on people. Including political divisiveness and extremism that you mentioned affects your business.

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Sean Antony Brunton

I see what is on TV. I see what affects my business. I am presuming, judging on what I see. What I am implying is that is ridiculous that your national guard must be called in, when there is a power outage. Here power goes out for months in places. Peolple have to use generators, diesel for two months before mains comes back. Don't call in the military.. People are use to suffering here.

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DarkWiiPlayer

As another song says:

Don't fret precious I'm here, step away from the window. Go back to sleep.

People sadly don't seem to care care if they're being manipulated.

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🦄N B🛡

// , This reminds me of a YouTube post that an acquaintance recommended to me, called, "This Video will Make You Angry", about the incentives of an "attention" economy:

youtube.com/watch?v=rE3j_RHkqJc

The point of it is that more anger means more views, which means more money. This distorts discourse that does not occur in the "old fashioned" way.

But the "old fashioned" way is better.

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