Are You or Your Children Easy Targets for Social Media Advertising?

Are You or Your Children Easy Targets for Social Media Advertising?

Before most of today’s heavy users of social media were born, persuasion researchers were exploring what it takes to not be suckered by mass media messages. Early on, they found that when people are distracted, they are less capable of formulating counterarguments against media persuasion. In other words, they are more likely to be tricked into believing messages they would otherwise reject.


Apply this kind of thinking to today’s social media environment and not only do we find distractions occurring all around us in the physical world, but also nearly anything we read on social media is accompanied by unsolicited commercial messages. While we create and respond to Facebook messages or formulate blog responses, for example, advertisers repeatedly expose us to products and encourage immediate purchases. The more distracted we are, the easier it is for such messages to influence our thinking, including on a subconscious level.

Some positive attributes of social media include opportunities for connectedness among people physically distant from each other, the capacity for charitable organizations to reach greater audiences, and enhanced organizational productivity. So while social media is certainly not all bad, the amount of unsolicited advertising has become excessive. The hazards of being inadvertently persuaded increase not only with greater numbers and repetitions of messages, but also to the extent that uncritical consumers fail to arm themselves with counterarguments against unsolicited messages.

When my children were small and a television commercial showed them items they didn’t need (and wouldn’t want for long even if they did receive them), I’d occasionally make a comment such as, “They’re trying to get us to want that toy,” or, “Do you think that man on the TV is a real doctor?” Years of research on mass media influence indicates that alerting children to persuasive content of media messages teaches them to think more critically about them.   

What we can do for ourselves as adults is similar and increasingly important as the amount of information and interruptions we encounter on our communication devices amplify. When we see or hear ads difficult to ignore, we can shift to a more critical mode and become accountable to ourselves for using media responsibly. In this way, we avoid becoming suckers by taking the initiative to think critically about messages designed to influence us to do things we would, in a less distracted state, refuse.

How is such a critical mode of thinking developed? First, begin consciously examining what techniques are being used to dupe you into a frivolous purchase or into voting for some political candidate. Make a game of identifying how you’re supposedly being managed or manipulated. Persuasion research shows three types of rational influence appeals are typical: those of appropriateness, consistency and effectiveness, or what I call the "ACE" technique. Appeals by appropriateness try to convince us that something is right to do because others we admire or to whom we relate are doing it (“No one is missing this movie!”). Consistency appeals advocate actions in line with what we’ve done previously or with treasured views of ourselves (“Smart people use SXYZ financial services!”). Effectiveness appeals tell us that buying or doing something will result in a good outcome (“Buy now and you’ll get 50% more free”).

The next time you see an unsolicited message, and that won’t be long from now, try this ACE technique for assessing how the advertiser hopes to influence your beliefs, attitudes or behavior. Consider emotional appeals as well. See if you’re capable of counterargument in the midst of multiple messages.  It’s like learning to ride a bicycle—awkward at first, but in a short time you’ll automatically think more critically. With practice, you’ll no longer be at the mercy of persuasive tactics you wouldn’t even have noticed before.

Photo: PHOTOCREO Michael Bednarek

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China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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