Bleats

Facebook And Tinder Have Gamified Social Interaction And Now It's Ruining Your LIfe

Turns out that the strategies that work a treat in Super Mario don't translate exactly to the dating world.

Games, it has been said by some of the wisest sages of our civilisation, are fun.

They’re exciting. They’re engaging. And they’re a brilliant way to escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life for those of us who yearn for a simpler world, where we are Batman and need only concern ourselves with beating thugs into submission in order to work out Riddler’s dastardly plan and also not do washing and chase up invoices.

There’s another reason why games are such a release is similar to the reason why sport is such a pleasure for a lot of people: things are governed by a set of clear, unchanging rules. You master the rules of the game and the challenges the game poses are overcome.

It’s enormously satisfying: especially if you live in a world where you might otherwise feel that you don’t really have a lot of control over things. Like, say, this one.

That’s one. The planet represented by the globe, not the chap spinning it.

And when things don’t adhere to that implied contract that rules will not be broken – when Batman gets trapped in a wall because of a programming glitch, or a player secretly pulls out an extra ball in the middle of a soccer game – it’s not merely annoying: it’s infuriating. The rules are being flouted and it’s actually offensive.

And it’s really, really easy to transfer that sort of game-specific behaviour in which people fly off the handle for relatively small transgressions to other things in your life that are kind of like games.

And this is a problem because loads of things in our lives are now, to use that most irritating of terms, “gamefied”.

Even our thrones!

A lot of this stuff is really cool, to be clear. Gamefying otherwise dull tasks is a great way to motivate people to do things which would otherwise be dull – like work out how to fold proteins, for example, or classify galaxies in astronomical photographs – because we find something deeply satisfying about hitting and beating a score.

And scores are important to us – after all, everything from sport to school marks to Yelp reviews are based on the idea that scores confer information about quality.

So: what do you think happens when you gamefy something that doesn’t have nice strict agreed-upon rules, like friendships or dating or discussing politics?

Here’s a hypothesis which the Cracked podcast put forward and which seems to dovetail nicely with most people’s experiences of the last decade of social media: a small but significant number of people get frustrated and angry far, far more quickly than they otherwise would.

Like this fellow!

And look, you know that there’s no magic button combination or special code that you can enter to make someone desire you, or get a friend to forgive you, or hang with the popular kids. We’ve always had social hierarchies, but the actual rankings have never been more visible or more universal than they are now.

Instagram followers are a popularity score. Twitter retweets are testimonies to how witty you are. Tinder swipes are evidence of exactly how hot you are. If you’ve grown up on games, these platforms seem very familiar – and it’s very natural to automatically seek to beat every other player and our own previous high score.

But there’s a bigger and more insidious problem. Remember that thing earlier about how games are relaxing because things are rules based and simple? Life’s not like that, and if we get lulled into thinking it is then we get really disappointed really, really quickly.

And then games can disappoint everyone really, really quickly all on their own. Right, Star Wars Battlefront II?

Games teach us is that every problem has a pretty straightforward solution, so when we’re in a situation that we don’t like it’s easy to not only be naturally unhappy at the situation, but actually angry and frustrated as though there’s some sort of error in the code of the game.

And thus it seems entirely predictable that the more social interactions and romantic pursuits resemble games there would be a small but significant group of people furious that they’re not getting what they assume they’ve earned – not merely feeling lonely, but that they’re actually being ripped off because they hit the “right” buttons and failed to be rewarded. Yes, I’m arguing that incels are an unintended but inevitable consequence of when gaming mechanics meet societal misogyny.

Now, let’s be clear: this is a theory, and it’s largely anecdotal. And even if it’s correct, it’s not an argument that we need to police games or ban apps or scrap social media. We can absolutely enjoy all of those things.

But maybe we need to be a little more thoughtful about what all those tiny, addictively repetitive actions are doing to us.

Hot Tip For World Leaders: When Threatening A Country On Twitter, First Check That They Didn't Ban It Six Years Ago

Otherwise your childish threats might seem even more childish.

Donald Trump has a lot to be grumpy about: people close to him are facing criminal charges, there’s reportedly a recording of him discussing a payoff to a porn star which he keeps denying ever happened, and the world hasn’t stopped laughing at his antics in Helsinki last week where he arguably confirmed that he and Vladimir Putin have some sort of arrangement going on.

And so he needed to do something big and strong, like make threats against another country – which, naturally, he did on his diplomatic channel of choice.

And sure, that was probably fun to type, but here’s the problem: Iran doesn’t have Twitter.

It’s been banned in the country since the 2012 establishment of the Supreme Council of Virtual Space, which would sound super-cool if it wasn’t part of the most repressive censorship regime outside of China. They repress like few would dare, does Iran’s government, using the same cool software as North Korea, Cuba and Myanmar – other nations with squeaky-clean human rights records, in other words.

Oh, and the population of Iran mainly speaks Persian and Turkik dialects, so a threat in all-caps English is arguably not going to cut it in any case.

So next time you fancy making distracting threats against Iran, Don, you might want to send a fax instead.

But, um, get someone to proofread it first.

There's A Thousand People With Chlamydia At Splendour In The Grass

And none of them are koalas. At least, as far as we are aware.

If you’re reading this then chances are you’re not at Splendour in the Grass – the annual three day music festival which started today in Byron Bay.

And that’s potentially good news because reportedly about 1000 people there have chlamydia.

Before you start speculating on the status of individual festival goers of your acquaintance it’s worth pointing out that this is an estimate based on the fact that there are 30,000 people there. About one in thirty young people have the sexually transmitted disease, and of the thousand likely chlamydiacs at Byron today around 720 of them won’t be aware of it.

Chlamydia, you see, is an insidious disease that doesn’t necessarily announce itself, especially for women. And it can really do a number on your health and fertility later on.

And that’s why NSW Health are doing screenings at the festival, and you have to admire their insider knowledge of what constitutes an incentive for people at a camping festival: they’re access to pristine toilets, which is reason enough to hand over a bit of wee for testing.

If you’ve been to festivals, you know what Day 3 smells like.

“Music festivals present an opportunity to reach our target audience, raise awareness of STIs and reduce the stigma around testing,” NSW Health’s Chris Bourne explained to the Sydney Morning Herald, and the fact they’ve set up near the campground means that… look, they’re going to have a really solid captive audience, is what we’re saying.

Folks will be alerted in a week as to whether they’re AOK or need to do something, and look, even if you’re not in Byron, if you’ve been less than entirely assiduous with the placement of your genitals since the last checkup, it’s probably worth getting tested (and you can find a clinic here: scroll down to find your state).

Your future, your partner(s) and your most sensitive bits will thank you.

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