There was a song trending for about a minute: “Get Out of My Head”, by Shane Codd. A fast beat and empowering message about pushing-back against a controlling lover. I streamed it while I was working-out or cleaning the house. Whenever I needed more energy. But lately I’m thinking “Get out of my head!” whenever I’m on the Internet. I’m pushing-back against the way my habits are being monitored and analyzed, my choices influenced.
It’s been a slippery slope in my Tech progression, and up until now I’ve been a consenting partner. Sites have learned that I’ll stick with a Search for maybe five minutes. So they capture my time with sophisticated algorithms. Suggestions of “You might also like…” send me to new products and streaming options — music, and movies I usually won’t spend time looking for on my own.
I love this. It’s a timesaver, and so personal in a way. Like having my very own Major- Domo, Personal Assistant, or AI Bot. But I’ve realized that the more I ‘allow’, the creepier this partnership is becoming.
Just a day or two ago, the boss of the world’s most popular social media platform finally ‘put it out there’ for all Users to see and Thumbs-Up – or not. His current goal: to create a metaverse (a term from a fictional book written in the 1990’s) where personal and professional time can be lived – for the most part – in VR, or virtual reality.
Fact: this “tech giant” has already made huge progress (+ money) on this. For the past few years, and spiking during the pandemic, sales of his company’s VR goggles have sky-rocketed. This might be a cynical takeaway on my part, but it feels like the message has been sent, and well-received: “Not so happy with your current ‘reality’? With VR, you’ll always have options!”
It’s not just about gaming anymore. More and more companies are choosing VR for meetings, to mimic the “3-D experience” of being with actual people…but not actually with the people who annoy you.
Should I be concerned, from a human-connection perspective? Definitely. But Zuck’s plan (and influence) isn’t really what peeved me this week. It’s not what triggered/ reminded me of the song, “Get Out of My Head”.
Early days in college, I learned that changing any kind of human behavior relies on repetition of information or message. Before we were able to surf and stream ad-free, I can verify that television commercials were insanely repetitive. Since the Internet, companies compete for my mental bandwidth, emotional response, and my money, using even more sophisticated psychology. With more efficiency & effectiveness every day.
I’ve always known about Neuromarketing strategies: the way a certain product’s hype targets my emotions. Often through my five senses. Neuromarketers know that certain scents, sounds and visuals cause me to feel good. And I’m more likely to buy ‘whatever’. In general, I haven’t had a problem with this.
But recently, when I noticed a website algo doing a deeper-dive into my personal psychology, I had to push back. I literally wrote to the company, “Get Out of My Head. Enough probing. You’ve crossed a line with me.” Then I clicked ‘Unsubscribe’.
What did they do that felt invasive and – well – just weird? Basically, what all successful marketers do: they analyzed my demographics to create my Profile. Their algorithm told them I was most likely: Insecure, in between Love Relationships, Questioning My Purpose, and Generally Dissatisfied. [Wrong. Ok, sort of. Wrong. And, very Wrong. ] They hoped to sell me (of course) a curated product targeting my “issues”. For me, on that particular day, it was Just. Too. Much. And way too obvious. I may be a little Covid-Crazy, but I haven’t lost total understanding of Who I Am.
“Get Out of My Head” on loop in my brain prompts me to ask, “Just how much information do I really want to share online?” Maybe I’m a little late to this ‘party’ but I really need to check myself on the breezy, carefree way I respond to Surveys, provide Feedback, and Subscribe. How much do “They” already know about me, those Neuromarketers? Unfortunately, a lot. And, they like to share with other neuromarketers, This much is clear.
But I’m onto them. They don’t yet know what they don’t yet know. And I intend to keep things that way.