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The problem isn’t the tech?

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There have been so many times when I keep thinking about the bad habits I acquired through the years. What kind, you ask? The practices that bother me are primarily about how I relate with my phone. It feels like an itch I couldn’t scratch. As if there’s something wrong, but I cannot figure it out. And perhaps, you’ve been thinking about it too–wondering how you allowed a few people from the tech dictate what your everyday life should look like.

Here’s an interesting conversation between Sean Illing and Johann Hari from Stolen Focus:

Sean Illing

So the problem isn’t the tech, it’s the business model?

Johann Hari

The heart of this is the business model. So you open Facebook or any of the mainstream social media apps and those companies begin to make money immediately in two ways. The first way is obvious. You see ads and they make money from the ads.

The second way is much more important. Everything you do on Facebook is scanned and sorted by Facebook to build a profile of you. So let’s say that you like Donald Trump and you tell your mom you just bought some diapers. Facebook’s algorithms are scanning you. This is someone who likes Donald Trump, he’s probably conservative. And he’s talking about diapers, he’s got a baby. They build up a profile of you to sell to advertisers. As people in Silicon Valley always say, you are not the customer of Facebook, you’re the product they sell to the advertisers.

The whole machinery, this whole business model has an effect: Every time you pick up Facebook and scroll, they make money. And every time you put it down, their revenue streams disappear. So all of their algorithmic power, all of their engineering genius, some of the cleverest people in the world are dedicated toward one goal: “How do I get Sean to pick up his phone more often and scroll as long as he possibly can?”

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