The Magic of Technology

Tristan Harris’ work, How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind—from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist, explains not only the extreme dependence the general public has on technology but also the strong need and desire to stay connected in fear of missing out on opportunities or news. He further explains this in a Ted-Talk as he describes the psychology and analysis that occurs behind our screens to ensure that our eyes remain glued to our phones. As he studied the intricacies and mind-tricks of magic as a child, he correlated his findings and research that came from working as a Google Design Ethicist with the concepts of visual tricks and mind-manipulation that are utilized in magic. The article explains how people rely on technology in all aspects, whether it be choosing a bar to drink at or having the temptation to open your phone when a notification appears on the iPhone home screen. Additionally, some of the concepts he explains are ‘Social Approval’ and ‘Social Reciprocity.’ These themes touch upon the urge and compulsion to post, tag, or comment on one’s own photo or a friend’s photo to ensure acceptance and leverage in the digital community. “We are vulnerable to needing to reciprocate others’ gestures. But as with Social Approval, tech companies now manipulate how often we experience it.” Harris continues to explain how social media sites make it extremely easy to view other people’s profiles, comments, and posts, and how one feels obligated to reciprocate in terms of communication. This idea relates greatly to Jessica Contrera’s work 13, Right Now; This is What it’s Like to Grow Up in the Age of Likes, Lols, and Longing. She explains this same phenomenon as she observes the life of a 13-year-old girl fully immersed in the technological world of social media and digital devices:  

“‘See this girl,’ she says, ‘she gets so many likes on her pictures because she’s posted over nine pictures saying, ‘Like all my pictures for a tbh, comment when done.’’ So everyone will like her pictures, and she’ll just give them a simple tbh. […]’ ‘Happy birthday posts are a pretty big deal,’ she says. ‘It really shows who cares enough to put you on their page.’”

The teenager and her peers are accustomed to living their daily lives according to the images and identities they have displayed on social media. There is a notable infatuation with technology that runs rampant in society that is becoming transgenerational as more time passes. The elder generations of our time are growing increasingly more immersed in the technological world, while the newer generations are being thrown directly into this digitally revolutionized atmosphere. As Tristan Harris’ work emphasized, the eternal dependence we have on our devices stems from the psychological reliance we have on our iPhones, iPads, and laptops as a result of the big-shot companies controlling our screens.

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