If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices - Deepstash
If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how those choices are manipulated upstream by menus we didn’t choose in the first place.

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask: 

  • “what’s not on the menu?” 
  • “why am I being given these options and not others?” 
  • “do I know the menu provider’s goals?” 
  • “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” 

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  • This keeps us subscribed to newsletters even after they haven’t delivered recent benefits 
  • This keeps us “friended” to people with whom we haven’t spoke in ages 
  • This keeps us swiping faces on dating apps, even when we haven’t even met up with anyone in a while 
  • This keeps us using social media 

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We’re told that it’s enough for businesses to “make choices available.” 

  • “If you don’t like it you can always use a different product.” 
  • “If you don’t like it, you can always unsubscribe.” 
  • “If you’re addicted to our app, you can always uninstall it from your phone.” 

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Another way apps hijack you is by taking your reasons for visiting the app (to perform a task) and make them inseparable from the app’s business reasons (maximizing how much we consume once we’re there).

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Companies know that messages that interrupt people immediately are more persuasive at getting people to respond than messages delivered asynchronously (like email or any deferred inbox).

In other words, interruption is good for business.

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Apps can exploit people’s inability to forecast the consequences of a click.

People don’t intuitively forecast the true cost of a click when it’s presented to them.

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Another way to hijack people is to keep them consuming things, even when they aren’t hungry anymore.

How? Easy. Take an experience that was bounded and finite, and turn it into a bottomless flow that keeps going.

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  • You do me a favor — I owe you one next time. 
  • You say, “thank you”— I have to say “you’re welcome.” 
  • You send me an email— it’s rude not to get back to you. 
  • You follow me — it’s rude not to follow you back. 

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We’re all vulnerable to social approval. The need to belong, to be approved or appreciated by our peers is among the highest human motivations. But now our social approval is in the hands of tech companies.

Everyone innately responds to social approval, but some demographics (teenagers) are more vulnerable to it than others. That’s why it’s so important to recognize how powerful designers are when they exploit this vulnerability.

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Here’s the unfortunate truth — several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:  

  • When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got. 
  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got. 
  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next. 
  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match. 
  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath. 

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Some changes that you can not make, if you want
  1. Deleting all your social media apps
  2. Reducing your home screen to six apps
  3. Forcing yourself not to use your phone

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