This is me in black just because I think it’s appropriate, given that I want to discuss the dark side of the force with you today: digital “dark patterns”.This sounds obscure, practically luceferian really and it’s true.
Everything in the digital world is created in to be addictive, which makes it practically impossible to leave.
We are going through a digital revolution and we are barely beginning to realize it.
We’ve only just noticed that we now have a sort of excrescence at the tip of our fingers. The very act of owning a telephone (the fact that its calling purpose has become the least interesting of all is crazy on its own) has modified an incredible number of daily practices.
We take photos of everything, share everything, from the most insignificant object to ourselves, in an unprecedented narcissistic exercise which would never have taken place ten years ago.
As the number of digital conversations occurring across the planet grows, so do new codes and languages that would not be tolerated outside of the digital sphere. The screen is like a shield which allows us to behave and interact in ways we would rarely carry out in the real world.
Imagine you’re at a professional seminar, would you ever think of just throwing your business card out to a random stranger? And yet that’s exactly what we do on LinkedIn when we invite a stranger to connect, which is a rather largely accepted behavior.
On another subject, our relationship with our physical appearances and bodies are being slowly modified by our digital lives.
For many teenagers, self-esteem is tied to the number of likes on their picture and if the former is not satisfactory, they simply delete their post.
Better yet: people in the US are asking their plastic surgeons to give them the appearance of a real-life snapchat filter.
Others still have a dream real life (yes, I know) on Instagram. It’s like leading a double life: a real life with constraints and all the issues those entail and a real life where everything is ideal. The coexistence of these two narratives are not an issue for many people, for whom both lives are equally as… real.
Flirting with the digital often equates to asking oneself questions about one’s relationship to reality. In the same vein, the growing phenomena of fake news and deep fakes being spread on the internet means it’s increasingly difficult to know whether something is true or not.
In 2018, the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal made us (partially) understand to what extent we have become objects of consumption. Overjoyed at the prospect of benefitting of a platform on which to publish the ins and the outs of our gripping lives, our opinions and which allows us to stay connected to people everywhere in the world for free, we’ve forgotten about the hidden cost: the use of our personal data, against our will.
We have become objects of consumption and through our own fault too. On Tinder, we have allowed ourselves to become objects of sexual consumption without thinking about it twice.
But that is not all we are, not at all. We are first and foremost subjects of consumption.
Since 1997, Stanford University has been working on the phenomenon of captology, or how numerical technologies become tools of persuasion or dissuasion.
Cambridge Analytica, which I referred to above, carries their slogan “Data drives all we do”, with pride. Post-Facebook scandal, an ironic double-meaning emerges: “your data drives everything we, Cambridge Analytica, can do”.
And so, as we are both objects and subjects of consumption, some of our choices become the objects of a desire for control. This can present itself as a desire to control our acquisitions through incredibly targeted advertising or as a desire to harness and manipulate our political power, as Cambridge Analytica did when it interfered with the electoral process during Donald Trump’s campaign.
Facebook knows which notifications to use to make you spend as much time as possible on the app. Facebook even uses fake notifications, even if you get not messages, just to keep you coming back to its platform. It vibrates in your pocket, you check and… nothing.
Instagram, which is now a part of the Facebook group, imposes an algorithm which is always changing. The only constant? Some posts you will see, others not. However, you will see the same content over and over again, even though you’ve already liked it.
We go to Facebook out of boredom, Instagram out of envy, we go to Snapchat for a laugh and to Tinder because of solitude.
The common denominator to all these social media platforms is the elaboration of techniques, algorithms, personalized notifications that are meant to bring you back into their web time and time again, that are meant to influence your decisions and that push you further away from real life every time.
I laughed a little when one of my friends on Instagram confessed she had found herself double-tapping her index on a physical, paper magazine – as she would’ve done had she been online. As she did it, she instantly noticed the issue and I empathize with her, given that I feel like it could very well happen to me too, regardless of how hard I try to remain lucid when it comes to social media.
It is partially our fault. Social media platforms never said they had philanthropic or charitable goals and we are absolutely to blame for never reading the terms and conditions we sign so often.
We are to blame when we feed the beast our data ourselves.
Finally, we know so little about artificial intelligence, which is growing and expanding as we speak.
No one is able to explain how Google Translate was capable of translating English to Korean directly when it was only ever programmed to translate English to Japanese, and then Japanese to Korean. No instructions were given and experts still struggle to understand how the system took the initiative of teaching itself how to do this, although they do know that Google Translate had to create its own artificial language to achieve this.
My only viaticum in this obscure digital revolution, which impacts every moment and every part of our lives, is to live truly, always and to be reasonable when sharing information online: the transmission of data may be inevitable but we can still try to limit its scope.
May 10, 2019
Azzi & Osta dress – Dior heels – Valentino vintage belt – Bvlgari clutch – Ania.K necklace – At the Lancaster hotel