We don’t need to gamify our online friendships.
You are under attack. Not physically, but by stealthy social media giants, engaged in a new kind of psychological warfare.
As Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, recently said, the company’s mission is to “consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible.”
“You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” he warned.
“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Now, the latest weapon of choice is the ‘streak’, a tool pioneered by Snapchat, and launching on Facebook Messenger.
It’s going to ‘gamify’ your online relationships, and you’ll need to wisen up if you want to keep your peace of mind.
Sneaky Snapchat and Facebook
It’s a common feeling: there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to meet (or even call) our friends, so we use social media to stay connected.
Facebook has kept the university camaraderie alive, long after graduation, and connects us to friends around the world in just a few clicks.
But despite concerns over social media addiction, companies keep developing new ways to ‘post’, ‘like’ and ‘comment’ leaning in to our psychological vulnerabilities in irresponsible ways.
And the rise of the ‘streak’ is a highly effective way to chain you to your smartphone even more.
You see, streaks are all about counting up and celebrating consecutive messages in a conversation. It’s not about the quality of the dialogue you’re engaged in, but a vacuous and highly-pressured numbers game.
Where conversation might otherwise have naturally petered out, you’ll be nudged to “keep your streak going” – playing on our competitive human nature, while placing a worrying measurable value on your online friendships.
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The dangers of the streak
We’ve already seen just how dangerous this function is for Snapchat users, a typically young audience who go to great effort to keep streaks going for hundreds of days.
The children’s charity NSPCC has received calls from kids feeling distressed about losing Snapstreaks, and today online safety experts SafetoNet today told The Memo it had its own concerns.
“This feature could increase the risk to young people of being exposed to entrapment or extortion by way of beguiling messages from people with harmful intent,” a spokesperson said.
The new adoption of ‘streaks’ by Facebook Messenger, is an attempt to tying a wider audience in with this trick. And while we might be older, and potentially wiser, it would be naive to assume adults are going to be immune to its perils.
Already many adults bookend the day checking notifications – even though we know this doesn’t make us happy. We’re still addicted to the highs of positive engagement, and crippled by the lows of our perceived online image.
We don’t need another notification pushing us to prove our friendships – to ourselves, or our friends, or anyone.
A social resistance?
With no ‘opt-out’ options, the harsh reality is that, soon, the only way to have a healthy relationship with social media might be to quit. Or at the very least to switch to alternatives with progressive new agendas.
The Silicon Valley elite are already ditching the platforms their peers are building empires on – GigaOM founder Om Malik, for example, famously quit Facebook in September.
To protect younger generations from the negative impacts of social media, we need to educate, but we also need to lead by example.
Facebook’s big addictive streak push is happening, what will you do?