"We studied casinos — casinos! — for their tricks and started dusting design reviews with words like variable rewards and triggers. We wrote books and gave conference talks about how best to create products that people came back to against their best intentions. As each hot new app radiated out from its San Francisco co-working space, we rushed to congratulate those who created it for their ingenuity in capturing our attention."
Each of us can play a part, can stop gambling our time, our attention, our lives away. It's not that these apps and services exist but the way they are gamified and monetised. Each "pull to refresh" is a spin of the wheel leaving us uncertain if it will land on red or black so we hedge our bets, reduce our risk and retreat to the safety of our bubbles.
But the connection of human beings has become a business model which thrives on fear, anger and outrage; a business model which serves to pierce our bubbles with polarised opinion to trigger that fear, anger and outrage.
All in the name of engagement.
The news feeds have become slot machines, endlessly spinning, scrolling by. We insert our posts and hope the machines pay out with notifications.
Just as the networks hope to hook us so we hope to hook our audiences, we are complicit. But how do we stop? Our own business models are predicated on the system, built upon the very thing that traps us.
The rules changes but, rather then realise how precarious it all is, we simply adjust, find new ways to play the game and stay at the table. Because, sadly, the alternative is too scary to consider.