Have you ever felt like your social media feeds are tailor-made just for you? Maybe you keep seeing ads for the latest video game or fashion trend you’ve been talking about with your friends. Or maybe you keep scrolling and scrolling, even though you know you should stop and do your homework. There’s a reason for that: social media companies use something called “hypernudging” to manipulate our behaviour.
What is hypernudging?
Hypernudging is a term that describes the use of algorithms (computer programmes that find patterns in data) and other tools to personalise the content we see online. This can include ads, news articles, and social media posts. The idea is to use data about our past behaviour to predict what we might be interested in seeing in the future, and then show us more of that content. This keeps us online for longer, which means more money for the owners of apps and websites.
For example, if you spend a lot of time watching cat videos on YouTube (this is just an example; I definitely don’t spend all day watching cat videos on YouTube, definitely not, no not me), the site’s algorithm might start recommending even more cat videos to you. Or, if you like a lot of posts about healthy eating, Instagram might show you more posts from fitness influencers. Maybe you have experienced this in your life and experiences with social media.
The problem with hypernudging
On the surface, hypernudging might not seem like such a bad thing. After all, who doesn’t like seeing content relevant to their interests? But there are some big problems with hypernudging that most people don’t even think about. But I research these things for a living, so I know all about them and can tell you what to look out for!
One problem is that hypernudging can create what’s called a “filter bubble.” This means that we only see content that confirms our beliefs and opinions, and we don’t get exposed to different viewpoints and ways of living. This can make it harder for us to learn about different perspectives and make informed decisions. Without learning other perspectives, it is hard for us to connect with and learn from people with different backgrounds.
Another issue is that hypernudging can manipulate us to behave in ways that are good for a company but unhealthy for us. For example, social media companies might use hypernudging to keep us hooked on their platforms for longer periods of time, even if we should be doing other things. This can have negative consequences for our physical and mental health, as well as our productivity and relationships with others.
How to Protect Yourself From Hypernudging
- Be aware of how social media works. Understanding how hypernudging and other algorithms work can help you be more mindful of the content you’re seeing online.
- Take breaks. Taking regular breaks from social media and other online activities is important, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out.
- Seek out diverse viewpoints. Try to seek out different perspectives and viewpoints, even if they don’t necessarily align with your own. This can help you make more informed decisions and be more open-minded.
- Use privacy settings. Most social media platforms have privacy settings that allow you to control what information is shared about you and how your data is used. Make sure you review these settings and adjust them as needed.
Hypernudging and social media manipulation are real issues we all need to be aware of. Understanding how these practices work and taking steps to protect ourselves can help ensure that we’re using social media safely and healthily. So, next time you’re scrolling through your feeds, remember to be mindful of what you’re seeing and take care of yourself!
Tell us: have you noticed being ‘hypernudged’? What effects do you think it has on you?