Today we begin our probe into the recess of virtual-societies by examining the most critical resource they fight to own–users. This is the second post in the series on virtual-societies, their inner working and motivations. The opinion painted is tinted and mostly unshaded.
Another industry that comfortably uses the term, users are drug industry. They refer to users as the people who are potential or established addicts. The virtual-societies are brain-child of people raised in developer communities, where naming guidelines enforce the name to reflect functionalities.
Both industries sell addiction, a shortcut to happiness and distance from unhappiness. Once I started to look for similarities, I was astonished by an overwhelming correlation in their operations. The addiction in a user develops in three stages–craving, loss of control on use, and continuous involvement despite adverse consequences. Cigarettes and alcohol have a chemical hot-lane to addictville. Gambling could be a compelling case-study to prospective, budding virtual-societies.
The virtual-societies are continually reverse-engineering the process of addiction. The best minds in the world are working to get us hooked to the screens. They are mixing the right amount of warm embrace and future possibilities to create a personalized serving of emotional cocktail to lure us inside. A simpleton’s life is regularly seduced with promises of primal nature–love, fame, joy, and belongingness. The promises that real society offers but demands effort, time and commitment in return are now available on sale.
Once recruited, the initial game is rigged to deliver the best of possibilities to a user with the least investment of time and effort. It an infamous drug dealer trick to give the best stuff to a new customer. ‘Beginner’s luck’ is known to convert leisure visits to an overnight gambling spree at casinos. There is no easy way from earth to stars, but as we enrol, we are given a taste of escape velocity. If executed right, our monkey mind cannot resist the pull of that vacuum.
An enrolled user is then methodically mined for information–both dynamic and static–by progressively disclosing features as rewards. Dynamic information is locations, photographs, surfing habits; whereas static info is concrete like name, dob and other passport page details. This process of revelation is an art in itself–it feeds users a tailored recipe with social pressure, conformity, and psychological tricks that establishes trust, and induce hurls with a high concentration of personal information.
The users are constantly fed, spiked with a frequent dose of happiness cocktails, and encouraged to mine their lives for more information for the ultimate prize of social approval. It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle and we gain high-value recurrent users, which are algorithmically categorized into multiple demographic buckets. Because, It is easier and economical to manage archetypes, demographics, and statistics than it is to manage people, aspirations, and hopes.
The success of virtual-societies is measured by user-affinity compared to the competition. The attention can be converted into metrics that translated to valuation. The best way to cash constant attention and high valuation is by creating addicts.
But, in turn, we will make their lives better? right?
You were a good teacher!