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Articles - Étudiants SUPINFO

Are our screens controlling us

Par Fayçal SIDI ALI MEBAREK Publié le 20/02/2020 à 12:41:43 Noter cet article:
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What's this all about ?

It has become commonplace to see a majority of the people around us with their eyes focused not on the world around them, but on the world contained in their smartphone. This experience, which undoubtedly challenges our grandparents, should also challenge us: While the first iPhone was launched in 2007 by Apple, how do you explain that in just ten years, we have become so quickly addicted to this new technological object? Whose fault is that? To a youth that is constantly losing interest in books, nature and "real" things? Well, not exactly...

Once upon a time in Stanford : The birth of Captology

It's just that these little screens hide a lot more secrets than we think. In 1998, a certain B.J. Fogg founded the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, and says that the question that most motivated him was: "How could you use the power of computers to change people's beliefs and behaviours? ». From this question was born a discipline: Captology, whose objective is to design computer tools that, in order to better influence our beliefs and behaviors, begin by capturing our attention and focusing it on our screens and the messages they transmit.

But how is it going ?

Have you seen how hard it is to hold back from opening our favorite application when it displays a new notification? That's because the computer tool forms an explosive cognitive cocktail, enough to put our brains on constant alert.

Researchers at the University of Chicago published a survey revealing that the mere presence of students' smartphones was enough to lower their scores on cognitive tests and occupy their cognitive abilities (known as "brain drain"). A possible vibration of our phones can indeed indicate a received message, or a new "Like" mention for one of our photos, but all these elements are potential social rewards that directly stimulate our brain areas that generate our feeling of pleasure. Since eating is where the appetite comes from, the more we engage our brain in these small pleasures, the more eager it becomes for the information, stimuli and other social interactions that are so finely computerized.

Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, didn't mince his words: "The short-term, dopaminergic reaction loops we've created are destroying the way society works.

Let's remain optimitic

First of all, let's remain optimistic because consulting social networks morning noon and evening is not enough to clinically speak of true "screen addiction". Joël Billieux, professor of psychology at the University of Luxembourg, explains that: "Addictive behaviour has negative consequences for the individual and those around him. The use of social networks should only be considered as a problem if it is associated with a loss of control and a concrete impact in daily life (...) Our communication methods have evolved. These tools have become indispensable. We must be careful not to "pathologize" these behaviors too quickly". There is therefore a difference between "habit" and "addiction", a difference notably linked to tolerance of withdrawal, loss of control or relapses.

Secondly, let's be optimistic because a new movement has been launched recently, that of a Web ethic, which seeks to impose on platform designers to design interfaces that exploit the brain's cognitive biases as little as possible. Tristan Harris, a former "product philosopher" at Google, has created a label: Time Well Spent to encourage users to regain control over the websites they visit, and in general to generate a global awareness of the need for human beings to always retain power over the technologies they use. Just recently, it was Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, who announced the development of a new feature, "Your Time on Facebook", aimed at raising awareness of the time spent on the application, in order to limit risky behaviour. So before long, we could discover an organic label for websites!

Conclusion

In short, our favorite apps are designed to grab our attention. This capture is based on cognitive mechanisms that are mostly unconscious. Let's not talk too quickly about addiction, but let's always try to keep control of our habits.

You should work away from your telephones: their mere presence in close proximity can disrupt your attention in a lasting way. Reduce the number of disturbances: If possible, change your app settings to receive notifications only when messages come from real people.

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