I. Can Apple, Facebook, Google, SnapChat, Ubisoft & Netflix Keep Putting on Angel Faces Faced with our Unhealthy Digital Consumption?
Online media is wonderful, isn’t it? It connects us to the world, to our friends and family across geographies, to knowledge through MOOCS and YouTube tutorials.
So how come Millenials and geeky Gen Xers feel a little bloated by digital content — without being really able to limit it?
With the rise of connected digital media over the past 15 years, many of us have been passive consumers of technology created with one objective in mind: to sell us a continuous stream of content, and the ads that go with it, all backed by big Silicon Valley dollars. Google in the 90’s; Facebook after 2004 and Apple’s iPhone are masters of the trade, along with video game designers like UbiSoft and now, Netflix’s subscription service.
How could we decently say no to products named « SmartPhones » even though they’re more like « SillyPhones » in the hands of most teens? Who doesn’t love « sharing », vs « taking others’ intellectual property »? Even « cookies » don’t seem that bad, vs « spyware », which could characterize them better.
We’ve been so impressed with the marketing and power of these tech giants, in their evangelical race to « change the world », that we haven’t stopped to ask: is this really the amount of digital content we want in our lives?
Just like sugar or drugs, social media, the web & video games makes us feel good in the moment we consume them, especially when consumed on a handy mobile device. An there’s so much of it! And its free! Connected media and devices give us a temporary high, a feeling of plenty, but soon after, given the lack of deep meaning or human interaction, it makes us feel empty, even depressed for a good share of youth consuming social media over 5 hours a day.
The problem is, moderation has not been built into digital media. In fact, its the opposite that’s happened. Facebook, Snap and Netflix are very smart companies applying the best psychological knowledge on how to hook us, as outlined in this Campaign story.
They never stop. The term « binge watching » for series has appeared. Netflix has started playing the next episode of a series without any request on the viewer’s part. Facebook offers a constant, never ending stream of content (and ads), and rewards those that post engaging content ( brands or individuals) through its algorithm. Read sensationalism. Enter fake news, the one that gets likes, or sad faces, or comments, gets priority over nuanced information. SnapChat and video games reward its users with points for staying on just a little more.
Apple, the « educational » computer company, has not developed parental controls that effectively work. On this Apple products forum, you’ll see excerpts from isolated geeky and concerned parents trying to install effective limits on their kids use of the web, applications and social media. But as I can testify, it is akin to herding cats. Isn’t it strange coming from the company that made computing intuitive for all, especially kids? Nothing, on the parental controls side, is done to make this process easy. I guess the conclusion for Apple is we should just straight out ban our kids from surfing the web and using applications?