The race for our attention – What do we really want to do in our lives?

The race for our attention - What do we really want to do in our lives?

The best way to get someone’s attention is to know how their mind works. If you have teenage children, you may be aware of Snapchat Streak, which keeps a record of the number of consecutive days on which somebody has communicated with one of their friends.

This is something that many teenagers don’t want to lose, to the extent that they’ll send pictures of anything or even share their password with friends to keep their Streaks going when they know they will not be able to connect.

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From Snapchat’s perspective, what’s important is that they retain their customers’ attention.

Time Well Spent is a new smartphone feature being developed by Facebook. It’s an application which keeps track of how a user spends their time on Facebook. Presumably, the intention is to help users to distinguish between time spent doing things they really care about, like arranging to meet their friends, rather than just exchanging messages with them.

If the outcome is that users regard this favourably – as time well spent – then their dwell time will increase, which means there is more time available to show them advertisements and more data available to harvest.

In a fascinating TED talk,  Tristan Harris points out that technology is no longer neutral – compare Snapchat with texting – but is being used to persuade us to act without even thinking. (As a former member of a technical team dedicated to persuadability applications, he should know.)

He puts it in terms of a race by technology companies to the bottom of the brain stem, appealing to the ‘lizard brain’ rather than the ‘reflective brain’.

It’s not that these companies or their employees are malicious or evil, but the outcomes can sometimes seem that way. For example, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix regards their main competitors as Facebook, YouTube and sleep.

Harris argues that we need radical changes, starting with the acknowledgement that we are persuadable. New business models and accountability systems are needed to steer us away from being persuaded without thinking. A design renaissance is also needed to re-focus on what’s important, rather than generating outrage about trivia.

What does any of this have to do with Intercity Technology? Our platform, Touch Secure provides our customers with the means to monitor and manage how users spend their time online, ensuring that theirs is time well spent.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from IT Security – Intercity Technology authored by Nick Ward. Read the original post at:

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