You, right now are being studied.
How you got to this page, what you clicked on before you got here and after you leave here. Where you went, and where you will most likely go. The pictures you looked at, the articles you read, the things you Liked, commented on, reposted, shopped for, researched… all of that — is feeding into an analytics program somewhere to better understand you and to figure out what information you should be fed next. Analytics is determining whether you are most likely to believe a story if this picture is included versus that picture. Words are being interchanged on the fly to make sure that the article that I get and the article that you get are tailored specifically to resonate with you or me based on how we’ve previously been analyzed. That ad you saw a few minutes ago… not a coincidence. That Facebook post about that topic that you are so passionate about — it is no coincidence that you saw it versus something that you maybe “should” see, but didn’t show previous interest in, so you won’t see it. Maybe you have an belief about something, but as humans tend to do at times, you’ve got your facts all wrong. Guess what, if you prefer the wrong information, analytics will continue to show you things to support your wrong information. As a result, you will not get smarter — you will become more passionate about your misinformation. The data that you are constantly and currently feeding analytics demonstrates your beliefs and will in turn help those trying to sell to you — because only people who believe what you believe would be customers.
“The vast majority of articles, videos, and other “content” we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get…well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.” — Ev Williams @ev Founder of Medium
I find myself in the profession of Marketing. And ironically, two things that I didn’t expect to be using so much of at this point in my career are Psychology and Math. I’m naturally a creative person, so when I combine Psychology + Math + Creativity somehow I found myself at the nexus of what Marketing is today. As a consumer, I’m developing a Super Man type x-ray vision to see through things in front of me. I no longer see an interesting article with an opinionated skew. I no longer see just an exiting TV show or movie. I no longer see a group with a “Cause”. I now have been trained to see what may be the underlying force behind any article, event, or media. I have to always consider the (I admit) paranoid sounding thought process of “Who is behind this”, “Who wants me to have this opinion”, “Who is trying to sell me something here”.
Getting back to how you are being analyzed.
Let me let you in on a few pieces of marketing technology that are used on you each day to analyze you and make YOU a better product. (When something is given to you free — you are the product — in case you didn’t know)
- A/B Testing — this is when marketers test two things against an audience to see which ones work best. For example — If you are a woman, does showing an ad with a woman work better on you than showing you an ad with a man. Woman?… ok, does it work better if she has a red sweater or a blue sweater. Red?… ok, does our headline using the phrase “Be Conservative With Your Money” work better than “Hold On to Your Money”… and so on. What you see in your world is absolutely no coincidence.
- Re-Marketing — this is when advertisers tag your computer with an “Joe was here” piece of data called a “cookie”. That way when Joe goes to look at hunting boots — a business that sells boots can chase Joe all over the internet showing Joe boot ads. And don’t let Joe talk about hunting on his favorite social network, because then Joe magically see’s more posts about hunting, and boots, and Joe’s friends that like hunting and boots, and Joe see’s more ads about both hunting and boots and when Joe finally buys some boots…. guess where he buys from? The business that chased him down. Joe thinks that it was his decision, but Joe fed the machine until the machine made it a no brainer than to buy from the machine. Sorry Joe.
- Feed Algorithms — One that really hits you on this one is News. I’ll try to avoid using the “F” word (f*k*), but the new mantra for our online news consumption should be “Believe and you shall receive”. Because there is no money in trying to change a person’s mind. People typically run from anything that is going to present them with an opposing view. The money is in Confirmation. Confirming a person’s current belief. Here’s were Facebook does an awesome job. If you like cat videos, you’ll be shown cat videos. If you believe that aliens live in Roswell, then you will be magically be fed all of the information that you need to confirm your belief. With politics — If you believe that Obama is Nigerian, Putin is American, Trump is a lesbian, and Netanyahu is an Arab — Then Like, Post, and Search about it enough and you will find plenty of confirmation of your beliefs. Because the Algorithm told you so. Therefore it must be true.
In the end, rest assured that you will no longer need to think as much. It is being done for you. Just continue to take the actions that you have been taking — clicking, Liking, reposting, browsing, etc. and the world that you want will be conveniently presented to you just the way you choose to see it. It will be sold to you, just the way you asked for it… or at least implied that you wanted it. And completely, automatically, and mindlessly without coincidence.