How Social Media misuses Behaviour Modification techniques

I’ve just read an article that is so important, I’m posting about it here and on Medium. The article is entitled:

How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the bit about the writer being a magician that caught my attention, it was the label of ‘Google Design Ethicist’ that made me start reading. Having just learned how Google invades our privacy, I was primed to be interested.

Almost immediately, I recognized the term ‘intermittent rewards’ as one of the  ‘behaviour mod[ification]’ techniques I’d studied at university. The course was Behavioural Sciences, and back then I’d wanted to become a psychologist.

In a nutshell, behaviour mod. started out as a therapy for:

Inducing positive change in an individual’s behavior through such techniques as positive and negative reinforcement, or punishment for poor behavior. This therapy method is based off of the experiments by B.F. Skinner and his theory of operant conditioning.

My interest in psychology was sidelined by my introduction to computers, so I never ‘used’ my studies for anything, but apparently industry had. Intermittent rewards are used to make people addicted to all sorts of things, including slot machines and…social media. When you see people obsessively checking their phones, or computers, for messages, emails, or ‘Likes’ on social media platforms like Facebook, it’s because they’ve been conditioned to do so by the technique of intermittent rewards.

You can see exactly how intermittent rewards work on social media by reading the article:

We’ve been turned into Pavlov’s Dogs by ‘social engineers’ who either never question the ethics of what they’re doing, or simply don’t care. The only way to turn social media into something that benefits us is to:

a) become aware of how we’re being manipulated and

b) kick up such a stink that companies benefiting from this manipulation are forced to change, or go under.

I’m so angry, I’d be happy to see them all crash and burn.



About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

16 responses to “How Social Media misuses Behaviour Modification techniques

  • vasanth haasini infotech

    I thought I should let you know about this company I came across. Right now, they are actively hiring people who know how to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

    If you fit the profile, then you can make great money doing this, as is explained here:


  • Elizabeth Drake

    Yes, there are quite a few articles out there on this.

    It’s very telling that the same people that created the social media no longer use it because they know exactly how it works, how addicting they made it, and how little you get from it.


    • acflory

      Yup. I read a very interesting article on Medium just now about ethics and the tech companies. Or should I say how they /need/ a huge dose of ethics.
      I think to most of the industry, seeing how much info they can get people to divulge is the ‘game’, and up till now there have been no consequences.
      Despite the apologies, I suspect Zuckerberg is simply pissed at being ‘caught’. Nothing will change while the industry remains self-regulated. Fox and hen house scenario. 😦


  • bone&silver

    I take small comfort from kids like my son and some of his friends who have switched off from continual social media connections (he bought himself a ‘dumb phone’ with no internet access). We also need to switch off and unplug ourselves regularly… but yes, it’s a dark and unknown world coming towards us, and not just because of social media… : /


  • Carrie Rubin

    I often think about what all this information and instant gratification is doing to our brains. It’s certainly rewiring them. Makes me worry about the children born into this digital age.


  • Scottie

    Meeka, can I ask how we know the difference between what we want to do, and what corporations would like us to do. I think I do what I wish to. I have the online profile I desire to put out . Yet am I using the system, or am I a victim of it? Hugs


    • acflory

      Ouch. That is the question, isn’t it? I’d like to think that I’m old enough and cantankerous enough to be immune to the manipulation but…I hate, hate, hate it when my internet connecton goes down. What does that say about me? Probably nothing good. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  • Widdershins

    Sometimes I feel that way too. 😦


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