With repetition, most of us will become inured to all the dirty tricks of Facebook attention-manipulation

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/01/09/ponds-soap-5c.html


This is exactly the kind of thing an opinion-manipulator would say.


a large slice of any population will eventually adapt to any stimulus, which is why most of us aren’t addicted to slot machines, Farmville and Pokemon Go.

Unfortunately, a very significant portion of any population (probably 25-30%) seems to be too stupid, weak-willed, and/or ignorant to adapt. As we’ve seen they can do a lot of damage.


We might be too worried? Inconceivable!


I deleted my facebook account about a decade ago… And I’ve felt like a second class citizen ever since. Why do some many business have facebook pages that you can’t access without an account?




The direction of the distraction hardly matters. The media is irrelevant. What’s important is that the community attention span be kept short. As long as long term memories aren’t added to, the same flock of sheeple get sheared repeatedly, we’ll even pay for the privilege.

Today it’s Facebook, yesterday it was MySpace, tomorrow it’ll be something else.

(Wait, what was I trying to say?)


Obviously a paid advertisement for Universal Paperclips.


Yknow I heard teevee is going to ruin this country and make all the kids have sex.


When they gave us Farmville, I wasn’t worried, because while some of my friends got addicted, it didn’t affect me. Then they gave us Universal paperclips, and I still I wasn’t worried because my friends got addicted, but it didn’t grab my attention. Finally, when they gave us Infinite Quest and I got addicted there was nobody left for an intervention.


I want to believe you, but two things weigh against it. Some percentage of the population will fall for any ludicrous thing out there. I’ve always called it the crazy threshold and informally I use a 20% benchmark. Roughly a fifth of all people will support any foolish thing in polling. Geocentrism, flat earth, you name it. The second point is Trump’s support, not the existence of support, though that is troubling enough, but the fact that it has held steady at about a third of the adult population. Every bit of damage he’s doing only takes about 1/3 support. A 1/5 baseline for crazy just doesn’t take too large of a shift to reach a 1/3 threshold that comes with real power. That means that a small lag between the introduction of new distraction techniques and new defenses is enough to meaningfully shift outcomes.


Interesting. I used to work with Frank Lantz. Lost touch with him in recent years.

Boing Boing uses a mild form of these tricks daily in their own headlines. Boing Boing uses the word “Watch:” roughly every 15 posts (go ahead and count them). They also pepper titles with “freaky,” “terrifying,” or and ads as content that usually start with something like “Write your” or “Learn how” and “This .”

It’s not only annoying, but has the side effect of generally dumbing down the site and marking it as just another manipulative content site that doesn’t respect its readers intelligence.

Cory, if these tactics don’t work anymore, then perhaps Boing Boing should stop using them and return to it’s roots.


Think about what you are giving Facebook for free. Is it worth the exchange for a free site to post pictures of you getting a tattoo?


There is an arms race for our attention, as the article states. I suspect that the pressure to develop stronger attention grabbing strategies (ie, the pressure of competing with other attention grabbing strategies) will outstrip the human mind’s ability to adapt and move on. Just as we weaponized nature’s neurotransmitter-mimicking molecules like opium, cocaine, nicotine, etc, there is big rewards for weaponizing attention-grabbing content. And we are getting better at it faster than our brains our evolving.

Here’s an essay that shaped my thoughts on this:


“Watch” is reasonable, I think. Some posts are text that you read, some posts are videos that you watch. If you see a headline that says “Watch”, you can go ahead and scroll past it if you’re not in a position to watch a video.

And the ad content is ad content.


One weird trick for escaping Facebook manipulation:

Block it at the router.


Then there is the problem how real news will get through all the junk and propaganda. People may stop clicking on fake stories, but this may just be a sign of apathy.

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I got my issue of Locus a few days ago (still waiting to see if the VP #21 class photo is in it yet) and so far this was the only article I’d read. I know it’s a tough time in our society, but this actually gave me hope because I felt it hit on some things we all forget. We do become immune to marketing appeals over time, we begin to understand how we’re being manipulated. It doesn’t mean they won’t find another vector for injecting the poison, but we’ll deal with that one, too, in its turn.

What’s never changed is the political appeal to hatred of “the other” that seems to work time after time after time. Whether it was the Irish, Asians, Italians, Latinos, there is an intrinsic ability of right-wing politicians to push the narrative of “other people are bad and causing all our problems” that always seems to work, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The politics of fearing immigrants seems eternal at this point, and I long for us to find a way to immunize society against such blatant lies. Whether it rests in a fundamental human trait of grouping ourselves socially and not trusting those from outside the group, or some other factor, it never fails to amaze me how a country primarily descended from immigrants can fear immigrants so much. And it’s not specific to the US, this dogma works around the world.

Alas, there are no easy answers to that question. One day, maybe, the majority of humans will grow to understand that the world is one great big society, and fearing “the other” isn’t helping us improve. I’m certain that won’t come in my lifetime, but I was also certain gay marriage wouldn’t come in my lifetime, and it did. Now is always the best time to be alive.


It took me awhile to figure out why I find the Civilization series of games so addictive. You’re simultaneously progressing along several tracks at once so that you’re always Just about to achieve some goal in one of them. And then you’re just about to achieve another goal etc…Than you look at the clock and it’s 5:00am and there’s no point in going to bed now