Saturday, August 10, 2019

Monetizing Like Minds - Section 15

Reverse Engineering Consent

In the wake of Cambridge Analytica's whodunit, #DeleteFacebook was trending so hot even Elon Musk grabbed a spotlight to confess his FB "willies"

I've personally wasted too much time on Google's many social media failures (Orkut, Dodgeball, Friend Connect, Lively, Latitude, Wave, Buzz, Google+) and too much hope on hopeless, even tragic, open source options such as Diaspora to expect that Facebook will be usurped any time soon. By design, it's too enmeshed with everyday life for most users to abruptly cut it off. 

So for those squirming with their own FB "willies" but unready to leap into "delete", I suggest turning Facebook into its own aversion therapy. The power of pure disgust may free you from the Emperor King of Chaos Monkeys. Here is the basic recipe. 

Begin by researching Edward Bernays.
Often called the Father of Spin, this is also the title of Larry Tye's biography of Bernays which includes historical insights about how his influence continues to shape our consumer culture.

In addition, Bernays donated all of his writing to the public domain so it is available for free. Much of it can be found by searching the Internet Archive. Here are two of his most cited works, Propaganda and The Engineering of Consent. For a quick overview of his life, go to the Edward Bernays Wikipedia entry.

Become savvy about influence.
Notice words and phrases that are used a lot and research their meaning. Repetition "brands" them in our minds for a reason. Take one of Zuck's favorite words "sharing", for example. says that the new "digital technology" definition is to give specific users access to online content. But it also includes the ethically nuanced understanding that culture has infused in us since birth: to divide and distribute in shares; to divide, apportion, or receive equally.

Sharing implies goodness. Human history has loaded powerful emotional expectation in this word even before the added overlays of context, tone, and interpretation. From wanting to be liked, to fear of appearing selfish, we have an ingrained motivation to share.

With the benefit of technology, Zuckerberg uses this automatic cultural pressure to maximize an unprecedented degree of targeted marketing leverage. Turn your attention inward for insights about your own reaction.

Contemplate the roots of reaction.
Browse Facebook pages with an objective curiosity. Notice patterns in the posts and comments, from the warm fuzzy "heart" warmers to the flaming ones in ALL CAPS. See that multiple exclamation points (!!!...) are commonplace and recognize them as personal campaigns for acknowledgement and attention. Reflect on the fact that this "sharing" is being engineered to feed a dependence that generates unchecked profit.

Trust (but verify) your feelings.
Gut instinct, pattern matching, spidey sense, whatever you want to call it, when "willies" begin to squirm, there is probably good reason. Evaluate your own skill at recognizing manipulation by becoming your own User Experience counsel. 

As an illustration, apply your evaluation skills to Mr. Zuckerberg's Facebook post entitled, Bringing the World Closer Together, a text version of his speech at the "first ever Facebook Community Summit!".

[reference excerpts from the speech]
Before we get started, I want to introduce myself. I'm Mark, and I'm a member of the Zuckerberg family group. I'm also a member of Max's Circle, which is like our family group except we all just share cute photos of my daughter doing ridiculous things.

...I'm a member of five groups for people who like the same kind of dog. That's my dog. His name is Beast. He's a Puli. He's basically a walking mop, except he makes things dirtier, not cleaner. And it turns out there are thousands of dogs just like him.

...You see, we're all here trying to do the most good for our communities with what we've been given. We know how lucky we are and how much we owe it to our communities to give back...And today I want to share with you that we're close to a milestone for our community.

...Our full mission statement is: give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. That reflects that we can't do this ourselves, but only by empowering people to build communities and bring people together.

...Today we're going to talk about two parts of our product roadmap focused on building "Meaningful Communities".

...Online communities strengthen physical communities by helping people come together online as well as offline, even across great distances.

So I started asking the question: if 2 billion people use Facebook, then how come we've only helped 100 million of them join meaningful communities?

Well, it turns out most people don't seek out communities in the physical world or online. Either your friends invite you or on Facebook we suggest them for you. So we started a project to see if we could get better at suggesting groups that will be meaningful to you. We started building artificial intelligence to do this. And it works! In the first 6 months, we helped 50% more people join meaningful communities. And there's a lot more to do here.

So now we're setting a goal -- to help one billion people join meaningful communities. If we can do this, it will not only turn around the whole decline in community membership we've seen for decades, it will start to strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together.

Now equipped with some relevant research, read through the speech with an objective curiosity. Note the word repetition and the approachable "ordinary guy" tone. Observe the course of the speech - how it opens and closes with inspiring personal anecdotes - how these mute a hard core center of global growth objectives aided by Artificial Intelligence - how the promise of shared success becomes an enchanting inevitable result. Understand that this message was meticulously crafted to achieve a specific effect.

Reflect on your reactions. Explore them for insights about motivations. Whether you eventually #DeleteFacebook, just spend much less time with it, or even decide to go deeper into its rabbit hole for the sake of experience, you'll be better attuned to the willies of manipulation, a skill which is just as valuable in real life as it is online.

What happens next is anybody's guess. As Doris Day once counseled my generation (and Samsung cleverly revived in a recent commercial), "Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see." Even Mr. Zuckerberg admitted a note of uncertainty in his speech with the line, "When you bring people together, you never know where it will lead".

Perhaps technology's most significant achievement will be to confront us with the truths of our own human nature.

Thank you for your time and attention.
"Life is the Ultimate UX"


Section 14<<<>>>Section 00