If there is one common goal that most of the technology industry has shared, it is to provide an effortless experience. Modern technology has always sought to be easier than ever to use. Giants like Apple, Amazon and Uber have transformed their sectors and made billions just by reducing the effort required to shop or call a taxi.
Think about the simple fact of taking out your phone to post on Facebook. You do not need to enter a code, as the phone is likely to be unlocked by fingerprint or facial recognition. The Facebook application is right there on the home screen. You are already logged in. Within seconds of tapping the icon, your post is activated, and you soon respond to comments, check how many people liked or shared it, and so on.
While this rigorous obsession with simplification was necessary when companies sought to upgrade from the age of dial-up internet and flip phones, it has now fallen into easy territory. But it has failed to address the changes that have changed society’s relationship with technology in the past.
Why simple technology has made life more complicated
Reducing the complicated nature means hiding the complexity behind an action. Years ago, this only meant coming up with more convenient ways to do a cumbersome job, such as booking a restaurant meal. Now, to do this is to hide what technology platforms are really capable of and the extent of their power. And this has generated some of the biggest problems facing the technology industry today.
Social networks have made it possible to broadcast on a platform – one that hosts almost a third of the world’s population – in a few clicks. There is nothing inherently problematic about this, but many major platforms tend to promote posts that cause the most involvement and attention, which has allowed malicious actors to dominate the attention of millions of people with intentional divisional posts. You’ll be notified of an update when it arrives and some of your online content will be displayed as soon as it begins to take shape – whether it’s moderated.
Similarly, Amazon’s one-button shopping experiences have exacerbated climate problems of the world. YouTube’s auto-play feature, which plays another video as soon as you’ve finished watching the current one, often sends users to conspiracy theories and other annoying channels.
How technology controls your online behavior
Technology plays a key role in shaping our online choices. Services that make money from maintaining commitment usually get rid of the complexity of the technology, so you’ll need to put as little effort as possible into using their applications.
Ads, for example. If a company wants to pay for a premium subscription, it will make the free version less convenient by including ads. When YouTube launched its Premium level, it started showing users two ads in the back, instead of one, before videos. If you want to remove this impediment, you must upgrade.
Similarly, Google does not want to restrict how much of your data is allowed to access its services. So, for years, its privacy settings have remained very complicated, which was difficult for most people to understand. Only recently, after several controversies and lawsuits, Google and other technology companies have simplified their security controls.
The user needs to understand what decisions he makes online
One research paper, Ulrik Söderström and Thomas Mejtoft, associate professors of media technology at the University of Umea in Sweden, found that application projects that provided more context about how they worked left users three times more satisfied.
Söderström and Mejtoft argue that the growth of overly “easy to use” services has “led to the creation of dark models”, such as how Facebook and Twitter algorithms often encourage harmful content and misinformation.
“Slowing down interactions in certain situations, to help the user understand what’s going on and to help them think about the decisions they make, creates conscious interactions,” they told Digital Trends.
Cliff Kuang, a UX designer and author of “User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Refaking the Way We Live, Work, and Play,” claims that things have become so simple that the products we use have become ” black boxes ”.
For example, one of the most alarming concerns that companies have faced is the racial tendency in their customization engines and even after years, they have barely made progress because these qualities are so deeply rooted in their technology that it is impossible for them to challenge it without eliminating the very products that brought them success.
Instead of instantly channeling everything people post to their vast networks, what if technology companies added algorithmic speeds that give them the ability to identify problematic content before it goes viral?
It might work, according to Anna Cox, a professor of human-computer interaction at University College London, who proposed that adding “micro-limits” to technology could put an end to unthinking interactions.
Measures taken by platforms
Fortunately, earlier this year, Facebook released an update that releases a warning every time someone tries to distribute an outdated article. Twitter has also added a prompt for users to open a link before redistributing it. WhatsApp has imposed a limit on distribution, to reduce misinformation and claimed that it has led to a 25% decrease in messages sent globally.
While these small changes may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, they are a promising step in the right direction. Twitter revealed that people who now read articles before distributing them increased by 33%, and pop-up windows managed to convince 40% more people to open the link they were trying to redistribute.
Encourages users to be more aware of possible misinformation and reminds them not to be too reckless with the information they consume or disseminate.
This can give us enough time to “reflect on whether our behavior matches our values and regain control, instead of interacting mindlessly with technology and moving from one application to another.
However, it is a difficult line to follow, and its effectiveness in these areas will depend on how well it is implemented and whether companies do it ethically. However, experts believe that the trend needs to return to technology design to address the growing number of issues, such as the deterioration of digital welfare levels, as well as the proliferation of misinformation, targeted abuse and more.