Gamification, Social media and a loss of individual freedom

It is not a stretch to say that in today’s day and age we are inseparable from social media and digital media and technology in general. But it is important to note that this “addiction” is perhaps the intended behavior the creators of those social media and digital technologies.

Gamification, or the use of game mechanics like rankings, scores, badges, levels, rewards and virtual currencies in apps and websites are pervasive in our world. It operates on the principle of “nudging” or the assumption that humans possess limited rationality and therefore bound by “emotions or by the mobilisation of repetitive and automatic behavioural patterns” and therefore can be controlled by controlling these behavioural patterns.

While there do exist positive use of nudges in case of apps that promote donations to the homeless, environmental protection and other objectively “positive” social behaviour, The biggest criticism to the use of nudging was that it enables social manipulation and, ultimately, loss of freedom.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and twitter. The numbers of subtweets, likes and views have started to become a gauge what is apparently desirable and acceptable in our society. On Instagram for instance the posts that are the most liked are promoting an unattainable beauty standard that can only be achieved by plastic surgery and or photo manipulation.

The posts that have the most engagement are plastered on top of our social media feeds and those posts consciously or unconsciously manipulates the way we think, our wants and thus our behaviours. This can be and is evidently used by the creators of these platforms or the “influencers” on these platforms to obtain a desired response from people. They might push certain products (sponsored products like “fitness teas”) or political ideology (facebook’s in the 2016 US elections) to people and direct their behaviour and thought.

Aside from promoting explicit things like specific products, it also shapes the way people engage with their own content on social media. More and more we see people post content that’s gives them likes and views and results in people being more superficial and having disingenuous personas. It also leads people to do heinous things for that attention or engagement (“Cruel” prank videos on youtube) We have become brainwashed into wanting an insatiable amount of these likes and doing anything to attain these likes. Like hzesu mentioned in their reading response “people now are under the risk of submerging by competitive thought which is lead by gamification to lets them regardless of the true meaning of the activity.” Gamification in this case referring to the amount of likes and views.

So it really makes one wonder if gamification is really good for us in terms of its general impact on society and if we do come to consensus that it is not, at this point can we really separate ourselves from it?


1 Comment

  1. Thanks for your post, you made a lot of interesting points! You mentioned instagram likes and it reminded me that currently in Canada, the number of likes and views are only available to the account user. Instagram claims that this is because of promoting mental well-being. However, their deletion of “influential” accounts has had many social influencer accounts lose out on content and followers, resulting in loss of financial gain, and brand endorsements. Some of these account holders are suffering real consequences to their personal life in loss of income that’s damaging their health and security. Some argue that instagram deleted accounts and removed likes to censor content to push their own ad’s and sponsored accounts to promote revenue and “delete the competition.” Any thoughts or comments on this?


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