Persuasive Technology

Time magazine did an article recently about persuasive technology, which basically means “technology designed to change attitudes or behaviors of the users through persuasion and social influence…” I’ve noticed many blogs and webpage articles have jumped on the bandwagon to push this mentality.

After years of studying human behavior, I’ve come to a few tentative conclusions. However, they are still evolving, so maybe “conclusion” isn’t really the right word. But I’ll go with that word for the time being.

One that human beings Americans especially are very suggestive. We have been trained from day one to “get something out of it” while also agreeing to “obeying” what we are told to do. This starts with our parents, then school and especially religion and finally law and government. We are told we need to toe the line and yet look out for number one because no one else will do it. It’s not surprising to me that a whole lot of us are confused by the mixed messages we are getting in every aspect of our lives. We live by the words “should,” “need,” “only,” and “wrong” and attach the right amount of guilt and fear that any religion would be proud of.

I see articles saying things like “I did this and you SHOULD too,” or “You NEED to do this to feel better about yourself,” or “This is the ONLY book you’ll ever need to be successful,” or “Are you doing that WRONG?”

Just today, I saw two blog articles from the same site that said: “The haircut that literally everyone is getting” and “Three things women over 30 should NEVER wear”. Okay.. the first one.

Literally? Does she really know that everyone in the world is getting this haircut, or does she actually not know the definition of “literally”? And the second one… who is she to determine what anyone should NEVER wear, let alone women older than herself?

Now I know many of these article titles are designed to get attention so the article will get read, and sometimes they go for the “shock value.” But most of them are really going for the “guilt value.”

The message they are sending is this… “If you don’t do this, you are basically a worthless human being, and I need to know I have the power to make you do things because you are terrified that you are a worthless human being.”

Of course, I know that people who do this tend to have low self-esteem, so they have to project themselves higher to feel better about themselves. The best way to do this is to make others feel worse about themselves.

In the past four years, we had a man in the White House who had taken this to a high art form and pretty much given carte blanche to everyone else to do the same thing.

So we ended up seeing videos splashed across the internet of people calling the police on someone else due to their racist, sexist or ableist attitudes, or refusing to provide service to someone whose lifestyle doesn’t match their interpretation of their religious beliefs to just being hateful to others because they can.

We see webpage and blog articles, magazine articles (women’s magazines are notorious for doing this), and TV commercials that feel the need to control our every action, all based on fear and guilt.

“Are your teeth white enough”? If not, shame on you; how can you dare being caught in public that way?

“Are you depressed?” Well, there is a drug for that. And another, and another, and another. Talk to your doctor about it NOW!

You are not a real woman unless you are spending $68 a week on skincare products (sunscreen, primer, foundation, powder, blush, finishing spray) and are on the latest diet craze.

Now I can understand the appeal of these kinds of articles and suggestions. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted, and successful. And they think if they follow the recommendations in these articles, maybe they will be. But in reality, that rarely happens.

People who are loved, accepted and successful are that way because they trust their inner intuition and do what is in their hearts and minds, not by obeying someone else’s mandate. If you constantly kiss up to others hoping to get their approval, the only person who wins is the person you are kissing up to, and you still won’t have their approval, and in the process, you end up losing your own soul bit by bit.

After years of doing this myself, I finally had an epiphany. All of my people-pleasing didn’t get me anywhere. Kissing other people’s asses didn’t get me the love and approval I thought I needed; in fact, they just used me worse. I finally decided I would live my life my way, in my time, and not by someone else’s “rule.”

So now I eat what I want, when I want, I sleep when I’m tired, I wear what is comfortable, I follow my conscious about the things I feel I’m called to do, I stopped reading articles that demand I do something others think I should do… in fact, I’ve stopped watching most TV and reading all women’s magazines, the two biggest control freaks of media. I wear my hair long, and I don’t wear makeup. I don’t buy expensive face creams that I know I don’t need, simply because some fashion editor or Madison Ave ex has determined that I SHOULD.

While Time’s article about persuasive technology dealt with online technology, personal electronics, and “apps,” all designed to keep us engaged continuously online with the idea of “buy, buy, buy,” I believe it goes deeper than that. It’s not only the idea of spending more money; it’s the fear and guilt to get you to spend more money.

The next time you are watching TV, listen to the commercials. Are they using a guilt trip to encourage you to buy their product? I’ll bet in 90% of the cases they are.

Look at articles and ads in magazines. Hell, even in sporting events, in addition to the commercials, there will be an internal commercial where the announcer will say, “and this half is brought to you by… “Or “this segment sponsored by.” Even the naming rights of stadiums, ball fields, and basketball areas are walking advertisements to keep the brand name in your head.

When I had cancer, and it was determined that one of the medications I was on probably helped trigger the Lymphoma tumors, my oncologist told me to run quickly away from anything advertised on TV, especially drugs.

I’ve since learned that in most cases, anything advertised on TV is likely to be there because they are having trouble selling their product any other way. And we all have been carefully trained to believe that anything advertised is something we absolutely NEED.

But these days, it’s not just TV or in magazines and newspapers. There are dozens of targeted ads on pretty much all websites and all over social media. We are bombarded with advertisements everywhere competing for our hard-earned dollars…. on the sides of buses and taxi cabs, billboards, on YouTube videos, on movie DVDs, enclosed with our water bill, stuffed in our mailboxes.

I’ve come to the point that I will no longer buy anything advertised because it all just seems so desperate, and in most cases, the product doesn’t live up to the hype. I have found much more success in learning about things word of mouth from friends I trust. I find it sad that everything these days are now nothing more than money-making ventures, including those that use to be considered a service… education, healthcare, religion, and damn, even baseball.

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