New Media

Technology Taking People’s Minds?

Tristan Harris is the author of the article How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds- From a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist. When I first began to read the article, I was skeptic about Harris’ argument. As I began to read deeper into the article, I started to see where he was coming from. It began to amaze me just how technology does this without us even realizing it. His first example was simple, but it made me realize that we are controlled by technology and the things that are involved in technology.

Harris’ first example is a menu.

Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

The text that is below in the article is something that made me wonder as well. In a restaurant, we never ask if there are other choices BESIDES the ones on the menu. The menu shows us a list and we have a free choice to choose from that specific list.
The second hijack that talks about addiction to technology. When we check our phones constantly within a 2 minute time frame, something is wrong. We are no longer in control of our impulses that relate to our phones. I know sometimes I will look at my phone and a second later have to relook at it because I did not pay attention to the time when I first looked at it. I was not wanting the time, I wanted to see if I had any messages. It is called Slot Machine. Harris’ lists a few ways we are slot machines.

But here’s the unfortunate truth — several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:

  • When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.
  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.
  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.
  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.
  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.


A major factor in technology is that people do not want to miss out on anything. People want to be in the know at all times.  This leads to an addiction as well. Harris’ says that
  • This keeps us subscribed to newsletters even after they haven’t delivered recent benefits (“what if I miss a future announcement?”)
  • This keeps us “friended” to people with whom we haven’t spoke in ages (“what if I miss something important from them?”)
  • This keeps us swiping faces on dating apps, even when we haven’t even met up with anyone in a while (“what if I miss that one hot match who likes me?”)
  • This keeps us using social media (“what if I miss that important news story or fall behind what my friends are talking about?”)

But if we zoom into that fear, we’ll discover that it’s unbounded: we’ll always miss something important at any point when we stop using something.

  • There are magic moments on Facebook we’ll miss by not using it for the 6th hour (e.g. an old friend who’s visiting town right now).
  • There are magic moments we’ll miss on Tinder (e.g. our dream romantic partner) by not swiping our 700th match.
  • There are emergency phone calls we’ll miss if we’re not connected 24/7.

But living moment to moment with the fear of missing something isn’t how we’re built to live.

Many people do not delete Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. They will delete it for a few days but then reinstall it. The account itself will never be deleted.

There are many ways that technology is taking over our lives. We have become so dependent on technology for our every day lives that we can not do anything for ourselves. Most people do not have any number memorized because they will always use their phones. Most people do not know how to read a map because of GPS. There are some people who do not hand write anything. They type everything. Cursive is a foreign language to most. Technology is slowly taking over and we are not aware enough to stop or even realize it.


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