In the online product world, there’s a large thrust towards “gamification” and creating viral product loops. In reviewing several recommendations from teams that have been successful in implementing these features; I’ve been wrestling with the fact that, although it works, it may not necessarily be good for our society.
The human brain is a pattern matching machine. The more you reinforce synaptic paths, the more likely that path will be followed again and a resulting behavior will (re)occur. If children and adults continue to create and reinforce their perception of self from external stimuli it guides them to be controlled by the world rather than the other way around. This is the basis for the theory of “Locus of Control.”
Locus of control in social psychology refers to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an important aspect of personality studies.
As we build and design the products that children will use, we should be mindful of the results they will have on helping them shape reality. Does it reinforce the premise that “you are in control and create your own reality,” or that “reality is shared and must be accepted by your friends.”
Social works and has been embraced by marketers because it drives people to act; however, so does pornography.
Keep this in mind as you build the next social network for people watching.