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Social Media Apps Are Playing Us

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We’re getting played. In a recent CBS News 60 Minutes segment, former Google product manager, Tristan Harris says that “apps and content – especially social media – carried on phones are purposely designed to be habit-forming. There’s a whole playbook of techniques that get used to get you using the product for as long as possible.”

That’s right, folks. They’re playing us. Big time.

A Huffington Post article even mentions that “scientists have shown our brains get a hit of dopamine – the chemical linked to happiness – when we hear our phones beep or ring.”

That article really hit home for me. I’m single, which means that I don’t exactly have any built-in spouse or kids to talk to at the end of the evening. So what do I do? I sit right next to my phone. When my screen lights up, I light up. You’d think it was Christmas morning.

I really do think that Justin Harris (the guy from Google mentioned above) is on to something when he says that social media apps in particular are designed to be habit-forming.

So why do we buy into it if we know we’re getting played?

Day after day we feel like we have to check these social media sites, or else… Or else what? We miss out on one of one million things that are going on in the world? Sadly we think that information is power. Usually we feel way better about ourselves if we’ve heard of something first. We get swallowed up by our pride.

When you’re not being heard anywhere else, you vent on social media. It’s one of the fastest ways to get attention, and sadly one of the easiest. There’s a reason we wait with huge expectations when we post a picture or video or blurb about our lives. We are looking to see just how special we are to everyone else. Then we measure how much our post was liked and translate that into how much we are liked. It’s sick and twisted, but it’s what we do!

Sometimes we just like to puff up our egos when we a) think we’re right, or b) think we need to share all our knowledge with the world. I recently read this excerpt from a blog called Becoming a Woman After God’s Own Heart by Melissa L. Stutz that I really liked:

“We are very complex human beings. I hesitate even sharing my views because of backlash from my non-Christian friends AND my Christian friends. The judgement goes both ways. We need to stop minimizing each other and start trying to understand each other, or at the very least, come to believe the best in one another.”

You may disagree or agree with that, but either way, I think everyone can agree that the high intensity and amount of backlash people get on social media isn’t contributing to sharing Christ’s kingdom with the world.

We see picture upon picture upon picture of bleached-teeth smiles, engaged couples, Starbucks Frappuccino selfies, pugs, and the latest fitness clothes ad. That’s when it happens. We start to resent everyone on social media because everyone on social media is portraying a false self. Then what’s worse is we try to keep up with their fake happy lives by posting about ours. And so we feed into the never-ending cycle of FAKE.

I don’t share all of this to be a Debby-Downer about sharing life. Sharing life is good. But we’ve somehow started to believe that what we see on social media is sharing real life. We’ve literally created a fantasy world where we can be whoever we want to be that day and write fake comments about other people and share in hateful arguments that we’d never get into if we were just sitting down over a good cup of coffee. So that’s the challenge, friends. Take time this week to sit down with someone and share life – and don’t you dare share a picture of it 😉


Author Anne

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