Your Phone is Manipulating You

Since I have become immobile, I’m now able to sift through exactly how I spend each moment of my time, and how it affects my mood. I have to pass the time by doing various things; reading, writing, playing the guitar, listening to music, listening to podcasts, watching movies and shows.  I noticed though, that some of these actions cloud my mind and depress me, while others give me focus, and the feeling of control. Why is that important? Because achieving a feeling of control is essential when you can’t do many things for yourself.  When I can’t stand for very long because my ankle swells up, and because I lack the ability to carry things in my hands that are occupied by crutches, I could submit to a helpless feeling which could be devastating.

You can break down your time into infinite ways, but I’m going to split it into two: taking action v.s. being used.  I find that I can actually do the exact same thing, but depending on my reason for doing it, it can be either an action that I take, or it can be happening to me.  Lets take reading an article.  I can read a news article on my phone, but how did I arrive at reading that article? If I was looking for information and conducted a search, and the article popped up in my search results then my viewing it is a result of an action that took.  If however, I blindly went on to CNN.com and scrolled around looking for articles and something with a flashy picture and a semi-interesting title popped up, my reading it is the result of my basic human instincts responding to a stimulus. I am being manipulated into reading it.

cnn

Don’t read this stuff

The Republican and Democratic primaries went on this week and last, and I suppose because of a need to be entertained I followed the happenings of each. I immediately noticed a drop in my mood, and an increased feeling of helplessness. It was if I couldn’t stop picking up my phone and checking the news sites to see what new development occurred. Even when I would crutch by my phone on the charger, it would impulsively divert my physical path to walk over and pick it up before I realized what I was doing. The more I had my phone tethered to my side, the worse I felt, because even when I would resist the impulse to look at my phone, the impulse was still there, and I could feel its strong pull.

Since then I have stopped going to news websites to simply read what they provide me for entertainment, but I am now able to read articles as an action that I take. I do this by coming up with a topic for research before I pick up my phone, or open my computer. Now I am hunting for information, rather than information being fed to me, and the difference is life changing.  You can do this with all sorts of activities. Did you research a movie to watch, or did amazon suggest one for you? Are you letting Pandora play in the background, or are you being active in listening to music?  I can’t control most things in my life, including for the moment my physical mobility, but I can control this small area. I can resist the impulse to be entertained, reject media being fed to me, and instead conduct everything that I do as an action that I take.

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One thought on “Your Phone is Manipulating You

  1. Algorithms predict what you are most likely to click on and that is all. What is best for you intellectually, spiritually, financially, and etc isn’t a factor. Without hesitation the algorithms will recommend alcohol to an alcohol, dating websites to married men, and so on. The manipulation you reference comes the algorithm feeding linear information based on what we have done in the past. I say linear because there is no upward expansion up information the baseline we establish is just mirrored. We fall into a loop of self affirming narratives that reduces are exposure outside information. We become useful data points to be sold to entities interested in influencing the loops we are in. However we ultimately control what content we just to search and view. We don’t have to accept what is advertised. Understanding that a smart is just a too next time you grab it ask yourself why; what exactly do you need with that tool for at that moment. If the answer is ambigious just put the tool down. Know what you need it for, what tasks or information you want, in advance and the tool will become more useful. You manipulate it.

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