It’s Only a Problem If It’s a Problem

TL; DR at the bottom.

Today we talked about big data and analytics that create value based on large amounts of data.  Before this class I will admit that I took the concept of “privacy rights and violations” kind of lightly, assuming that they could only work with items that were intentionally posted. I thought (sarcastically) “oh noOo Facebook will know I love going to the beach and hate winter, just like everyone else.” Except that’s the dangerous misunderstanding that guided my already somewhat guarded behaviour online. I had a powerful ah-ha moment during the video clip, explaining the correlation between characteristics of personality traits (OCEAN) and the type of message that needs to be targeted to that specific group to facilitate behavioural change.

My mind went back to The Psych of Death and Dying course I took a few years ago and had Chris Burris as a professor. During that lecture he was discussing a value wheel (or value model, it was structured like a colour wheel) which mapped out around 11 or so general categories of values. Like a colour wheel, values appearing on opposite sides of each other were contrasting and incompatible; while the ones closest together were highly compatible and likely to be sub categories of importance following your initial category. Universalism was incompatible with Hedonism, and closely tied together were items like Traditions, Universalism, and Security.

Why does this matter? The video talked about correlations among OCEAN categories and never mentioned individual values…except the values are the feature they’re using to appeal to select audiences and facilitate change. Standing alone, the personality traits probably are not nearly as strong as the value model, which I strongly believe is the third variable they are not aware they’re using and is the real power source behind their business. This is a huge problem because your values are (if I remember this right) highly fixed over time, and are derived from things like family upbringing, SES, experiences, personality, etc. The whole biopsychosocial sphere. With that information at their disposal, they have more information about you than you do because they know the underlying motivational pieces that drive you.

Superficial expressions are not a deterrent, either, and can not fake your value system. Let’s say you strongly value hedonism, and another person values universalism. Both of you get a new dog on Saturday and post a picture of your new pet to Facebook. You say in your caption “I love his soft fur and cuddles!” And the other person says “so blessed to have rescued you, welcome to your new home!” You both join a group called Pet Lovers Unite KW area, and go to the same park with your pet. While on the surface you both got a new pet, are happy with them, and are expanding your social circle to include others with pet ownership, the two people are very different. Your post about their soft fur and cuddles outlines your underlying motivation (which was to feel good). The other person using items like “rescue” and alluding to inclusion shows the universalism as motivation.

Truth of that matter is, you share more characteristics with others under the hedonism value system than you do with the other person who got a dog. Any agency wanting to use this informatin only needs to know your value system to highly correlate other matters that will be of interest to you, across any topic they choose.

Persuasion is another concern. One of the first techniques psych students are ever taught about is called foot-in-the-door. This is when one small request is answered so another request is made, increasing in value. The way this can be done would be to follow a scheme like this: “Please visit our website for more information.” -> “Thank out for visiting our website, please fill out our customer survey for your chance to win 1 of 7 prizes.” , “Thank you for filling out our survey, be sure to “Like” us on Facebook for more updates about ________.” , “please like and share this post and tag 5 friends you would bring with you to Hawaii” and so on. By doing those minimal effort tasks, each subsequent task does not seem outrageous. If they begun with the please like and share with friends, you may not engage with the post at all or even see it. Not being seen is a problem on social media, especially when social prescience and interaction is the social capital needed to survive as a business or action movement.

By knowing your values, foot-in-the-door becomes an easy method to fulfill a goal. One power source can have many faces online- depending on who they need to each and engage with to learn more about for future success. Hypothetically, let’s say a company called FoodWise, Inc. owns 15 restaurants, some are chains and some look like independently owned locations. Each of the 15 has a different customer audience to engage, some are family focused, some are fine dining, others are pubs and then there’s the ones that pretend to be independent and cater to whatever. On the surface, each chain looks like a different company, so maybe one is called “The Sphinx” and another is “Burger Bro’s Cookhouse”…they look like different places, even like competitors, but above all FoodWise owns them. That means FoodWise has customer engagement from every sphere, ranging from families to bachelors and high cost to low. The online engagement means scraping information from everyone to find new ways to convince you to buy their stuff and buy it often.

TL;DR : they know your value system and that’s scary, because you probably don’t now your value system as well as they do. They can hit you in your mental reflex and get a precise reaction out of you.


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