Uff, the title of the article sounds unsettling, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes we need to hear the scary truth to figure out what to do to protect ourselves. And the truth is that online services manipulate us a lot to make sure we keep using them. In other words, they want to keep us addicted to whatever they’re offering.
It might be not such a bad thing because often, we have to keep using certain services to stay connected to our friends and family, entertain ourselves, and do other cool and interesting stuff. However, it’s vital for us to know and catch moments when we’re getting manipulated to have more control over our usage of these services. We don’t want them to consume all our time, right?
In this article, we will take a look a the most widely spread manipulation tactics online services use so that you know what to watch out for.
And, of course, don’t forget to use a VPN app, especially if you access any online services that have access or contain sensitive information about you. iNinja VPN app for Android, iOS, and desktop devices will hide your IP address and encrypt your outcoming and incoming data thus making it impossible for hackers to steal your information. It is especially important to use a VPN app when you access sensitive data while connected to public WiFi. Routers in public places are rarely properly protected from malefactors. So by connecting to them without a VPN working as a buffer between you and the network, you expose yourself to a potential threat.
And now, let’s see how online services get us addicted to them.
They limit your choice
There is a trick parents use to manipulate their kids into doing what’s needed. For example, to make a child brush their teeth, a parent will offer them to brush teeth with either of two toothbrushes. Simple as that, this trick creates an illusion of a choice for a kid while there is no actual choice — the child is still left with the need to brush their teeth.
The internet found out about this trick and was happy to make it a trend as users began making videos about them tricking their partners and relatives in the same way. And you know what? This trick worked with adults just as well as it worked with kids.
That’s what online services do, too. They would offer us a couple of options thus creating an illusion that we have a choice. However, if you look closer, you will see that there is no choice here. You are bound to choose between, let’s say, a monthly subscription, and a yearly one. A monthly one would be much more expensive than the yearly option, so we will go with the latter. And we will feel satisfied that we made this choice and saved some money. But did we actually make the choice? Or did the service make it for us already, and we just went with it? We mean, anyone would choose the cheaper option — why would you want to pay more? Sure, you saved some money. As you think, of course — the service costs just as much as you paid for it getting a yearly subscription. A monthly one is made more expensive on purpose, so you’re not getting a discount. A winner here is that service that just got itself a client that will stick to the service for at least a year. And most likely, a year in you will forget to cancel the subscription, and it will be renewed. Do you see the trick here?
They give us rewards
But that isn't bad, right? Sure, rewards are nice. When they’re real rewards. Online services create an illusion of a reward. For example, a new like on social media feels like a reward. A post from your friend feels like a reward. A new bonus in a game feels like a reward. So we keep using a service repeatedly hoping to get rewarded with a new notification, post, or something else. Eventually, this action becomes a habit, and we start performing it without even noticing how this action begins. And that’s how online services make us addicted to them. The next time you’ll reach for Facebook, Instagram, or some other service you use frequently, think — why do you do that? If the reason to do that satisfies you, proceed. But if you can’t find an answer or you don’t like the one you have, think about ignoring the momentary desire.
They make us afraid of missing out
FOMO or fear of missing out is a modern phenomenon created by online services and ads. There is so much happening in the world nowadays, and the importance of these events is very much amplified by social media making us feel that we will lose something important if we miss that. Notice how the ads you see are written. More often than not, they will tell you to “buy it now or you’ll lose a chance to get 20% off”. And this phrase works particularly because of the fear of missing out. If the ad said, “get 20% off”, it wouldn’t be so effective.
The modern digital environment created for us this urge to read the message once we receive it even if we’re busy, to check social media all the time, to spend a lot of time going through news feeds to make sure we keep track of everything, otherwise… Otherwise, what happens? Ask yourself this question every time you want to do something because you’re afraid to miss out. What would happen if you don’t buy this item? Do you even really need it? Do you really need to know what Alice ate for lunch and how proud is Peter of his car? No, you don’t. And trust us, you will feel more grounded and calm once you learn to not be afraid to miss out. Because the only thing you shouldn’t miss out on is your real life.
They want us to invest time
Once we invest time and effort into something, it’s harder for us to just abandon this thing. So online services use this human feature to make you stay and buy products. For instance, if you found some shop that allows you to create your unique design for a t-shirt using a simple constructor, you will quite likely play this game. And while you create a t-shirt, you inevitably start imagining yourself wearing it. So the chances that you end up buying are getting much higher.
They offer infinite scroll
Have you noticed how Instagram switched from showing you older posts you’ve already seen to offering you “posts you might like”? So you’re scrolling and scrolling, and you don’t stop. The next thing you know, you’ve been scrolling for an hour. Wow, where did that time go? Another similar feature is autoplay on Youtube that automatically starts playing the next video. We advise you to turn off infinite feeds and autoplay features if you can. If not, the only thing you can do is to learn to control yourself so that you can just stop and leave the platform.
Stay aware of your own actions, and no social media platform or other online services will be able to manipulate you into doing something you didn’t really want to do. And use the iNinja VPN app to always stay safe.