2 billion people use the internet everyday and internet today is the larger source of influence on such a huge group of people, on their daily thoughts and beliefs, religions and governments only dream about it!
But with great power comes great responsibility which big internet companies don’t really worry about. Our time and attention are their money and they have no ethics when it comes to persuading us to give them our time. To get as much of our attention as they can, they are employing experts, who know exactly how to take advantage of our cognitive biases and create systems that are way better at hijacking our instincts than we are at controlling them. To recognize whether we are being manipulated or not all the time, all 150 times a day we reach for our phone, would demand a huge amount of energy we simply do not have to spare.
The first person who warned us about this problem of big internet companies hijacking our brain and not having any ethics behind their actions was Tristan Harris. He used to work at Google as design ethicist and is now known as the conscious of the Silicon Valley. He is warning that science is coming up with new and new ways how to get even more of our time, more than what we are willing to give, but there is nobody taking care of our best interest. So we should do it on our own!
How does it work? When we receive notification and reach for our phone, we usually end up spending good 10-20 minutes of our time without planning too. And that is ok, if we have time, but what if we are at work or we are planning to go to sleep early that evening, when social media suddenly sucks us in the internet world?
We are trapped more often than we think we are and everyday experts are working harder to get our attention and keep it on their web site for as long as possible. And this is not going to change as long as our attention and time equal their money.
So what can we do to protect ourselves? First thing is to understand the problem, to know how does the hijacking of our brain works. Second thing is to admit that we have a problem, we are not excluded because we are too smart and have the best self-control ever. We are just one little brain with cognitive functions that leave us vulnerable. The thousands of scientists working against us, we don’t really have much luck to stand up. What we can do is to become aware of what is happening and limit the time we spend on the internet and from time to time find some other source of entertainment. Or use one of the apps and websites that help us control the time we spend and help us claim our attention back:
Here is the list of them:
- Adblock (speaks for itself: it blocks out all the adds)
- Mozilla Focus (allows you to delete your history right away)
- Facebook purity (you decide what you want to see and what you don’t)
- Rescue time (tracking time on each app and setting boundaries for certain apps of your choice)
- Flight mode (during the night, when at work, with friends, family, studying…)
- Ergonomy of the phone (delete apps from your home screen, place them in different folders so you don’t see them. Far from the eyes, far from the heart)
- Consider apps you have (do you need FB app or twitter app on your phone—maybe use it only on your computer—this way less notification and better use of your free time).
Do you know any other ones? Please, share them in the comments!
Thank you in advance!
Check out Tristan Harris and his TedTalk.