An online reaction is a heart, a thumbs up or a comment. It can mean “hello,” “I like this,” or “I like you,” or “you’re right,” or “I send you a hug.” Also “this should see more people” because we are giving a kind of elbow complicity algorithm that prioritizes content according to our response: “Hey, take note, this kind of thing interests me.”
The obsession with metrics on the Internet, by the number of our followers who say I like it, leads us to compulsive, competitive and anxious behavior, and pushes us to create more and more content pursuing an opaque idea of social success.
To combat this crazy desire to like the artist Benjamin Grosser offers software that hides all the figures in social networks, with the intention of curbing “the damage to mental health, privacy and democracy” that according to him provoke Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Thus, “25 people like this” becomes ” people like this ” (people like it, but do not know how many). Grosser’s artistic work, which emerged in 2012, has turned out to be visionary. A month ago, Instagram announced that it is trying to hide the number of reactions to the photos “so that followers can focus on what is shared”.
For those who do not use social networks, this may seem an irrelevant anecdote, but for millions of people, it will be a revolution in the way they consume content on the Internet, where the likes, and also the comments and the times the message is shared, are a language in itself.
They have intention and meaning, they are linked to the human need to obtain an identity and belong to the group. When interacting with a content we look for several things. The most important is social recognition.
That is, “I want to show that I am an informed person who follows international media” or “I want my friends and acquaintances to know that I am a feminist”. We want to build a public image that fits our circles and that gives us a sense of security and a certain reward more followers that someone we admire knows about our existence; or positive reinforcement in the form of likes with the consequent discharge of dopamine.
But how generous do we show ourselves when it comes to delivering applause. This depends, and much, on the tool we use, says Gillian Brooks, a marketing researcher at the University of Oxford. On the mobile, just a simple lazy click from the sofa to give a liking.
Age and sex influence millennials on Instagram ration them more than, for example, middle-aged women on Facebook, because “they are more concerned about their social capital” (their digital reputation) than other demographic groups. Brooks.
On the Internet, we also interact with content because we want to be useful. By finding something relevant, we become “information DJs,” says Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscience researcher. We do not think only what we want to hear, but we have the audience in mind on the track.
Therefore, what we mark with a heart or share sometimes does not correspond to what we consume. This explains that not always the contents with more interactions coincide with the most read. We do not read 59% of the links we distribute on Twitter, according to a 2016 study by Microsoft Research, the National Institute for Computer and Automation Research of France (INRIA) and the University of Columbia (USA).
\Anyone who has worked in social networks has faced the dreaded request (or order, in the worst cases): “This has to go viral.” It is convenient to explain, first, the nature of the viral. The journalist Delia Rodríguez describes it in Memecracia.
The popular is like a community water poisoning: all are reached directly, in one step. The viral is an infection that spreads from one to another and another. Although the number of final patients may be the same, the process is very different. One is television, the rally, the linear.
The other thing is the rumor, the email chains, the exponential. ” Explain to a boss that we can not guarantee viralization, that success or failure depends, among many other factors, on algorithms that change (sometimes without warning) is often useless as complicated.
And it gives the impression that you do not know how to do your job. But there is a key question that almost everyone understands, and that can affect how a story works – if it meets requirements such as channel, audience and appropriate time and if the winds of the unpredictable algorithm blow favorable what emotion provokes What do you offer.
A journalist from a digital media tells how the editors were asked to think specifically about the sentiment of each publication before launching it: hope, surprise, anger key is not that the emotion is positive or negative, but intense. Better euphoria or anger that calms. It comes into play, yes, the social network, because Twitter and Facebook tend to be fertile fields for outrage, while Instagram especially receives inspiring or hopeful messages.
Of the vital importance of emotion, advertising has been pending for years. In an interconnected market, with many similar products, you have to attract an overflowing consumer. Tom Meyvis, a professor at the business school at the University of New York, recalls that before the banners (web ads) attracted with movement and automatic playback, but today they do not work. We have developed the ” banner blindness “.
In this context of oversaturation and blindness is where the emotion works. Advertising no longer tells us that a detergent washes cleaner, but rather reminds us of the nostalgia for the smell of childhood. And on the Internet, the tendencies, previously directed to the aspirational and unattainable, return to the apparently home-made content, vulnerability and close communication.
Those who set the trend, the influencers, are the answer to the saturation and loss of interest in brands, says Gillian Brooks of Oxford. Interacting with people seems more intimate and reliable than doing it with a company. An emotional relationship is built with them, although they do, precisely, advertising for a company.
Neuromarketing or “consumer neuroscience” is one of the techniques that try to unravel the mechanisms by which we pay attention. The multiplication of online offer supposes an overload of information for our brains, with limited attention span, so these disciplines point directly at the mind, avoiding subjective and imprecise answers.
They use techniques such as eye-tracking (tracking the movement of the eyes on the screen); the measurement of galvanic response of the skin (GSR), which detects sweat on the hands to measure the emotional response; electroencephalography (EEG), which measures brain activity and level of attention; or the facial recognition of emotions.
Neuromarketing confirms, among other things, that we act fast on the Internet. Our gaze moves at full speed from the upper left corner of the screen down and to the right, just like when we read – although this varies in cultures that write from right to left – and it does so faster than on paper.
Even voracious readers of books read superficially on the screen, looking at headlines and highlights, says Ingrit Moya, coordinator of the master’s degree in Neuromarketing at the Complutense University of Madrid.
We can click on an ad in 0.1 seconds, according to a report in the Journal of Marketing Research (2012), depending on how long it takes to identify the usefulness of the product and also what we are doing it is not the same to be buying clothes than reading the news.
There are other techniques to capture our gaze in the infinite showcase of the Internet. We are conditioned to pay attention to human faces, especially when they look at us directly eye-tracking studies detected that attract our eyes, especially the eyes and mouths.
A 2014 investigation by the Georgia Institute of Technology (USA) concluded that Instagram images with faces receive, on average, 38% more likes. You can do the test: how successful was your artistic picture of a landscape, and how much did your last selfie It influences how handsome you are. Studies from the early 2000s concluded that most of us are more interested in photos of the opposite sex, especially if they are attractive to us.
We are attracted to other elements for evolutionary reasons, says Tom Meyvis, from NYU, like colors – we associate red to emergencies – and what moves – video becomes increasingly important. With the sense of urgency to which we respond instinctively, he plays one of the most powerful tools notifications, often in the form of a red dot.
“They are cheap, and difficult to deactivate in many applications,” says Anastasia Dedyukhina, founder of the company that educates in digital minimalism Consciously Digital and author of the book Homo Distractus. “You do not know what they contain and you always want them to be useful or interesting.”
But there may be a limit to this flood of stimuli. Our brains are adapting to the constant use of the mobile and the dopamine discharges we feel with a liking or the response to a message warns Dedyukhina. She decided to cut back, changing her cell phone to a basic one with calls only.
Those who think about moving away from the screens, in the middle of this battle for attention and time, are legion today. One of the most recognized experts in attention on the Internet, Nir Eyal, published in 2014 the book Enganchado to build successful products and services that form habits. His new work, edited this year, is Indisctable to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.