Should our digital life better than our real one? It’s common commentary behind closed doors at many co’s and something parents are policing at home. More importantly, these discussions are becoming commonplace amongst product development teams at young tech startups. Founders are challenging themselves by self-regulating potential negative impacts their technology could have on society. The success of a digital experience today has been built on an extractive attention model. It is no accident that every time you open youtube you lose 2 hours of your life. It is by design.
Extractive Engagement vs. Restorative Engagement
If you work in tech, a tech investor, or a startup Founder, I challenge you to ask yourself if the company is able to monetize without contributing to human downgrading. The answer will likely be a percentage, not a yes/no. As new companies, we can only project our impact overgrowth and use; beyond commonsense of course. Extractive engagement vs. restorative engagement is a new KPI some companies are tracking with a conscious effort to build business models that are safe for mass consumption.
Otherwise, the result can hurt the people who make our business possible. Tech is one of the few industries that is able to grow a business and do harm to its end-users without defined repercussions. We have all experienced some type of consequence as our lives digitize. Addiction, social isolation, bullying, misinformation, diminishing self-worth, and polarization — all pose an existential threat to humanity. The lack of technology and innovation has its own list of threats to humanity. There is good and bad, government regulation and self-regulation. Understanding our data and the technology we use is going to require awareness, transparency, and education. Everyone has a responsibility to our own well being.
Stylish & Entertaining
Which brings me to an old app or a new addiction? The Kim Kardashian: Hollywood has been downloaded over 67 million times and generated $220 million in revenue last year. Admittedly, I had never heard of it until last month while I was visiting a friend and entrenched with a bunch of 9 and 10-year-olds. It’s still going strong amongst a generation that likely was not the intended demographic.
With adults writing articles titled “Kim Kardashian’s Mobile Game Ruined My Life”; what are the long-term effects when our kids are chasing fame, spending their allowance on digital Balmain dresses, and competing for fake followers in-app instead of being present in the moment?
I joined the game and was introduced to someone on Instagram by an 11-year-old that hacks the game for unlimited K Stars so I could live the ultimate luxury life online. With houses in Paris, NYC, Beverly Hills and an elephant for a pet. Even I was having fun shopping and exploring different cities and seeing what the characters had to say. The conversation is quite thoughtful and realistic. I racked up a designer wardrobe in no time and started moving up to be an A-lister. I am completely impressed and slightly disgusted by how addicting the game can get. “Kim is calling”. Kim never called when I was playing with paper dolls on the carpet when I was 8. But I also wasn’t in a serious conversation with a 10-year-old about the disappointment of not having a Gucci sweater or Valentino shoes available for our Avatar’s. These games are meant to be fun, but are our kids being shaped too early with unrealistic expectations of what adulting is like?
Dealing with the #IRL pressures of real followers has already taken a toll on our younger generations. Eye widening cosmetic surgery to look like your SnapChat filter is a top request for people under 30. Instagram has begun testing “like” removals so we can focus on “liking ourselves” and engaging in conversation. However, the financial implications of removing “likes” is an enormous concern. Changing user behavior and motivations when it comes to taking features away could have unprojectable and harsh consequences to the bottom line.
Being in the business of selling $900.00 Lanvin dresses to 7-year-olds for Easter Sunday #IRL. I spend a lot of time analyzing our process, purpose, and our company’s responsibility not only to our shareholders but to the end-consumers and specifically our youth. Going beyond the label, luxury offers old world values that can seamlessly translate into lustful relevance. There’s a lot of education, values, and heritage in a 90-year-old company. There’s also an incredible amount of opportunity to apply old world values to build restorative and relevant engagement models. Our digital life seems to be focused on manufacturing moments on a #URL instead of collecting memories #IRL. On the flip side, can’t we have our cake and eat it too?