Are you a Sucker?
Are you a sucker for televangelists’ claims to be able to cure cancer and blindness? Will you fork over your money in the hopes they cure you too?
But it’s very likely you’re a sucker nevertheless. You’re falling for similar schemes of the modern day equivalent to televangelists.
The Modern Day Televangelists
The modern day televangelists are tech companies.
Just like televangelists of old, they use psychological tricks to manipulate us out of our modern currency: our attention.
For example, Twitter suckers us into returning over and over again by intentionally creating a couple seconds of dopamine-driving delay between the time you open the app and when you see how many notifications you have. We only then see a little number (in red, to make it more irresistible), which we rabidly click to unveil what’s behind it.
It’s been proven that tactics like these have the same addictive effects on our brains as gambling. We’re manipulated into dropping our attention into our phones like coins, one minute after the other—up to 150 times a day according to some studies. Our phones have become pocket-sized slot machines.
Suckers in the Long Run
While we may enjoy a short term rush from checking our Twitter or Facebook feeds or email accounts, we suffer in the long run.
When researchers tracked people’s use of various phone apps over a period of time and subsequently asked them which apps they most regretted using, the top answers were the who’s who of modern televangelists: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.
These modern day televangelists know exactly what makes us tick and use that knowledge to manipulate us for their benefit and our detriment. You’re a sucker. I’m a sucker. We’re all suckers.
You don’t agree?
Just like with smoking fifty years ago, we think that since everyone else is doing it, it can’t be that bad. We’re wrong.
We also seriously overestimate our own abilities relative to others. This has been proven by, among many others, the study that famously found that 93% of us think we’re better than average drivers. Don’t trust your skewed self-perception.
If you think you’re immune to these modern day televangelists’ psychological tactics, there’s a good chance your an even bigger sucker than most. The first step to not being a sucker is to admit you’re a sucker.
Protect Yourself From Manipulation
Tristan Harris and his non-profit Time Well Spent are fighting to promote ethical design within these modern day televangelists. His mission is to motivate the likes of Twitter and Facebook to guide our attention in ways that benefit us, not them.
It’s a daunting task.
In the meanwhile, the best way to protect yourself is to be aware. Just like when we watch a magician perform, even when we know we’re being tricked, our brains can’t help but fall for it. The tricks only lose their manipulative power when we discover exactly how they were done. So educate yourself as your first line of defense.
Either that or destroy your phone and live in the woods.
If you want want to be less of a sucker, learn more about this important topic, and find out what Tristan Harris is doing to save us from modern day televangelists, you can:
- Read How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds, the post Tristan wrote that went viral and ended up getting him onto 60 minutes, the TED main stage, and more
- Watch his TED Talk, “How better tech could protect us from distraction” (also embedded below)
- Listen to his interview on Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast