A couple of years ago the BBC investigative series Panorama did a story titled: “Smartphones: The Dark Side“.
Here is the brief description of the show:
People are all increasingly glued to their smartphones and consumed by social media, but why? Panorama reporter Hilary Andersson tracks down tech insiders who reveal how social-media companies have deliberately developed habit-forming technology to get people hooked. A former Facebook manager tells the program: ‘Their goal is to addict you and then sell your time’ and the creator of the ‘like’ button warns of the dangers of social-media addiction. Panorama investigates the science behind the lure of technology and shows how behavioral science has been used to keep people endlessly checking their phones.
Here’s what Aza Raskin, former Mozilla and Jawbone employee, had to say: “It’s as if they’re taking behavioral cocaine and just sprinkling it all over your interface and that’s the thing that keeps you like coming back and back and back”.
Raskin knows of what he speaks; he is the creator of infinite scroll, one of the features of many apps that is now seen as highly habit-forming. Infinite scroll allows users to endlessly swipe down through content without clicking.
“If you don’t give your brain time to catch up with your impulses,” Mr. Raskin said, “you just keep scrolling.” He said the innovation kept users looking at their phones far longer than necessary. Raskin notes that many designers were driven to create addictive app features by the business models of the big companies that employed them.
“In order to get the next round of funding, in order to get your stock price up, the amount of time that people spend on your app has to go up,” he said. So, when you put that much pressure on that one number, you’re going to start trying to invent new ways of getting people to stay hooked.”
Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, said publicly that the company set out to consume as much user time as possible. He claimed it was “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology”. The Panorama program also explored the use of color, sounds, and unexpected rewards to drive compulsive behavior.
I don’t feel a need to check Facebook and Twitter constantly, but for some reason, as many of you know, I do check my WordPress stats quite often.
So now I’m suspicious that WordPress may be deploying some of these behavioral tricks to get people like me addicted.
Is it a coincidence that my stats have gone up slowly and surely each year for the past five years? After all, if they had never gone up, or started going down, I may have lost interest in blogging. But the steady increase is part of what keeps me coming back.
And what would be the reason for so many views of a post about LEGO tires? I know one day Reddit was responsible for a lot of those views, but about the other 600 plus days when it was usually my most viewed post?
And now that the views of the LEGO tires post are finally fading away, how is it that a “new” post seems to have magically popped up to take its place, for no reason.
For the past 10 days or so, my most viewed post has been one I wrote back in 2017: Key Lessons from the Longest Study on Human Development
Here’s what has been happening with this one post for the past six weeks in terms of views:
- August 1: 4 views
- August 15: 2
- September 1: 20
- September 2: 32
- September 3: 63
- September 4: 21
- September 5: 34
- September 6: 48
- September 7: 72
- September 8: 55
- September 9: 107
- September 10: 117
- September 11: 118
- September 12: 59
Typically, a post that old might occasionally get 1-3 views on a given day.
And it’s not like there is anything Pulitzer-prize like about that post, although I do feel strongly about how I ended the post:
“… to me that is the biggest issue we face as a nation and around the world – how to reduce the poverty gap so that we no longer have children born into poverty and all the future problems that creates for those individuals and our country. And we also need to change our attitude; we can’t look at people who are struggling financially, socially, emotionally, or physically and assume it is their own fault. As the data from this study shows, that’s certainly not the case. What we need is a kinder, gentler set of policies, and a kinder, gentler attitude from all of us, to all of us.”
So again, my question is, why would this post start to become so popular, just as my previous popular post starts to drop significantly in terms of views?
I’m starting to think that WordPress is toying with me. There’s a team there just messing with my head. They will just randomly view my posts, a few more each day over time, to increase the view count and then on occasion have one post go crazy. They know exactly how I will respond to such events, by checking my stats constantly and staying on as a loyal WordPress user. And I’ll even write about it, like I am now.
So I just want to let the people at WordPress know that I am on to you and your addictive tricks.
And I also want to let you know, as long as your tricks result in increasing my views over time, you are welcome to keep doing what you are doing…
*source used: BBC
**image from West Suburban Journal