a boy staring at a computer screen

Marketing Literacy and Internet Privacy

Annie Murphy Paul’s Brilliant Report this month has some interesting advice on marketing literacy. This topic is very related to our recent post on self-identity and the furor over Facebook’s secret research.

Many a parent and teacher has despaired over how easily young people’s attention is diverted, especially when they’re online. Stay focused! we urge them. Don’t let yourself get distracted! Our admonitions have little sway against the powerful temptations of the Internet. But there may be a better way to help teenagers resist the web’s lures: let them know that their attention is being deliberately manipulated and exploited.

Many of you are probably familiar with the research in attention and how TV programming and advertising are both sculpted to attract and hold attention in powerful ways. Annie Marie Paul talks about how Internet companies and especially social media companies are the best at this. She analogizes that Facebook is become more addictive than cigarettes. It is designed to keep you clicking and wandering around forever, sharing your personal information in drips and drops to Facebook and to third parties along the way. We take shortcuts by using social media registrations and logins without realizing that we are enabling incredibly detailed profiles of ourselves to be compiled by advertisers.

This is where the similarity comes in the post on self-identity and why I titled this post Marketing Literacy. Just like the only successful PSAs against smoking focused on not being manipulated rather than the health dangers of smoking, she suggests that the way to help teens develop marketing literacy is to show them how they are being manipulated in the Internet ecosystem and how this steals their autonomy.

Is this overblown, or do you also find it concerning?

Image credit: “Computer Addiction” by Anna Yanev Photography used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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