Social Media Is Like A Casino

Slot Machine
When you’re on Instagram, you’re in a casino…

I read a snippet from an interview with a designer/developer.

I couldn’t find where I read it, but what the person said still sticks with me.

The person was working on a design for a social media app. I can’t remember, which one. I’m fairly sure it was for Twitter.

Smartphones were starting to really become popular, but with the small screen space and the clumsy way we hold phones and use our thumbs made it difficult for people to refresh the page.

This person had the idea for holding your finger on the screen and pulling down to refresh the page.

Pretty smart, right?

Later, after the person reflected on their idea, they realized that it was the same motion as a slot machine.

A person sits at a machine, pulls on a lever and the machine spins out new numbers.

The more you think about that the more interesting the comparison gets…

Hits Of Dopamine

When you listen to gamblers answer the question about why they gamble they often say it’s for the rush. They can’t get the rush anywhere else. They can’t get the same kind of rush anywhere else.

Over centuries, gambling and casinos have honed in on ways to generate little hits of dopamine in people’s brains. You win just enough to keep your brain satisfied. When it feels like you can’t lose anymore you win just enough to keep you coming back.

And even if you do go on a big losing streak you come back again and again because now you’re really desperate for a hit of dopamine.

Social media leaders have no problem admitting that dopamine is a major driver in the way social media works.

You upload a picture and get likes. You refresh the feed and get new content. Just little hits of dopamine to keep you coming back over and over again.

No Clocks

Most people know that when you go into a casino that you’re not going to see clocks. There are no windows. It feels like you’re not even part of the outside world. It’s like you’re transported into another world where people seem happy, but the closer you look you realize that isn’t the case.

You hear all the sounds. You see all the lights. But the closer you look you start to see that people are depressed. They’re worried. They’re out of shape. Their faces don’t look healthy. They look like zombies.

Social media sites are masters are taking up our attention. We sit on a site and we’re not meant to leave. There is always something there to keep our attention for just a little longer. There are no clocks. They don’t want us to know what time it is.

Final Thought

I don’t blame casinos for setting people up to lose money. And I don’t blame social media for setting people up to waste their time. Gary Vaynerchuk is big on saying that technology and social media expose us. And I’m 100% in agreement with that. That’s why I don’t blame social sites for what they do. They’ve figured out the tendencies of people.

You could even look at sugar in the same way. Companies that sell sugary treats aren’t changing us. They’re exposing us. They’ve figured out what people want and they give it to us.

Casinos, social media, sugar companies, they’re all the same. They’re really good at understanding people. There is no forced buying or forced attention going on. People willing do all those things.

The key to it all, and the key for this post, is understanding yourself. Understanding your tendencies. Knowing what results you want to get in life versus what you’re actually doing.

If you get joy out of gambling and you’re doing what you want to do then there is no issue. The same with social media.

But if you’re not doing what you want to do in life a good place to look is social media. Because if you feel like you don’t have enough time to accomplish what you want it’s time to look at your own tendencies.

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