Former Design Ethicist at Google Speaks about how Tech Companies use Persuasion to get our Attention


Photo via TV Brackets.


(Written by Jesse Priest.)

Former Design Ethicist at Google, Tristan Harris, spoke with author and neuroscientist Sam Harris about the ethics of how technology companies use persuasion to get our attention and time and about solutions how to better spend your time with technology.

Tristan was a guest on Waking Up, a podcast by Sam Harris, author of two New York Times best-selling books including The End of Faith and The Moral Landscape.

Check out the podcast here.

Tristan is the head of Time Well Spent, a company that focuses on inventing ways that help people spend their time well with the devices and technology they use the most. He has been on 60 Minutes and also has a TED talk on the subject.

From the website Time Well Spent:

The truth is: we decide who gets your attention.

Apps, news, politicians, even your friends…
All of them go through screens we designed, before they reach you.

The problem is, our goals aren’t the same as your goals.

Because our profits rely on your attention. So we’re not really on your team…

We win the more we keep you scrolling.
We win the more we hook your kids.
We win the more things interrupt you.
We win when outrage and misinformation keeps you hooked to news.

We don’t want it to be like this.
We don’t want to pollute your mind and our democracy.

But we’re trapped… unless we can change the industry.

In his podcast with Sam Harris, Tristan gets into the fact that even though products and apps can bring you lots of benefits and pleasures, you can also, at the same time, be manipulated and led down a path that is not beneficial in the long run.

“People’s minds can’t hold on to both truths that we do derive lots of value from Facebook and there are many manipulative design techniques across all of these products that are not really on your team to help you live your life. That distinction is very interesting when you start getting into what ethical persuasion is,” Tristan said.

Top Three Biggest Business Mistakes on Social Media

By Catalina Uriarte

As our world becomes smaller and social media is becoming the primary way of communication businesses are rushing to invest in social media platforms. Social media is a unique platform of advertising because it allows the consumer to interact with companies like they never could before. As consumers we focus on the experience. We want to feel special and connected with our brands, social media allows us to do that. While Social Media can be a great tool for building loyal customers it can also be a double edged sword. When used improperly it can be insulting and you can lose customers. Here are some of the biggest business mistakes made on social media and what we can learn from them.

  1. Not choosing hashtags wisely

Hashtags can be a great way to start up online conversations about your company and grow awareness. As a general rule of thumb, before posting any hashtag check to see if that hashtag is already trending. Make sure your hashtag can’t be tied into current

#notguily example 1
Off the Casey Anthony trail, many were upset with the verdict tweeting out #notguilty 

events unless that is your intention. Lastly, make sure if your hashtag involves more than one word that it spells out only the intentions you are going for and NOT something that will get you fired. Hashtag hijacking may be more difficult to dodge, but these examples are totally avoidable


This tweet is created to promote British singer Susan Boyle’s new album. Unfortunately it looks like it spells out. . . something else. 

2. Trying to profit off tragedy

Many companies like to make ties based on current events. It adds to relevance, emotion, and resignation. With that being said, companies should never commercialize off of

example 2 kmart
Kmart sends their prayers to Newton Connecticut shooting victims yet ads a hashtag advertising.  

tragedy. No matter how good the intentions this shows to backfire time and time again. The most recent example being Pepsi.

3. Making flat out stupid or insulting comments

bic-womens-day example 3.jpg
Sexist advertisement tells women to act like a lady but think like a man. 


While all these examples are awful these ones are just down right stupid. Always make sure what you are posting sends a positive message to all genders, races, ages, and individuals. Social media is worldwide, be culturally sensitive!






All and all be smart to avoid a social media PR crisis. Happy posting!


Read, M. (2012 December, 14). K-Mart Uses Its Stupid Spammy Hashtag in Tweets About Shooting. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from

Stevens, H. (2015 August, 27). SheKnows Media uses Bic ‘Act like a lady, think like a man’ ad to teach. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from

Vgenopoulos, K. (2016 June, 22). The 10 Worst Twitter #Hashtag Fails of All Time. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from



Ezekiel Elliot the latest example of the power of social media

By Cesar Valdes

The power of social media has been something evident since its existence.

Information lives on the internet, good or bad.

Social media can be used to benefit oneself, or it can be used to negatively impact the image of a person.

Such was the case for Dallas Cowboys All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliot.

Over the weekend, Elliot was spotted at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dallas. But his presence was capitalized by a controversial incident that soon spread like wildfire on Twitter.

Elliot, seen drinking and standing next to a woman gesturing towards him, pulled down her shirt all while being recorded. The video spread quickly throughout Twitter, and so did criticism.

If this were another player, say one from the Jacksonville Jaguars, then this probably wouldn’t have been such a big deal. Anyways, one kicker from the Giants was accused of physically harming his wife and didn’t receive much punishment publicly, as displayed by a mere one game suspension and his non-immediate dismissal from the team.

What is different for Elliot than other players is that he plays for one of the most recognizable sport franchises in the Dallas Cowboys. Everything he does is going to be looked under a microscope.

What happens next for Elliot will ultimately rely upon how the public feels about what he did. We learned from the Ray Rice case that commissioner Roger Goodell will react to public criticism

So far, much of the criticism on Twitter and other social media outlets has been nothing short of negative.

What may or may not happen to Elliot is an example for everyone, not just notable people or head figures, to act as if they had a camera pointed at them at all times. It is almost rare for any incident not to be recorded, either by photographs or video, and not be posted on a social media outlet.

If Elliot goes through this without any punishment from the NFL that doesn’t necessarily mean he is off the hook. This mishap still puts a blemish on his image. He could potentially lose endorsements or not receive some new ones because of this.

Elliot has just become the latest example of the bad side of social media.



Featured image: TMZ Sports

The Day PewDiePie took over gaming social media

By Daniel Portales

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, otherwise better known as the most subscribed channel on Youtube ever PewDiePie, no doubt has a tremendous reach and audience. This is both in the Youtube sphere as well as any social media site he is involved with, most notably Twitter and his mass following on that site as well.


He made his start as doing a series of videos called, “Let’s plays,” where he records himself playing video games while showing reactions and adding commentary of his impressions of any given game, a popular type of video to this day. However, he has recently branched out to do different kinds of content that he finds fun and would provide different kinds of content for his viewers to watch, mostly comedic and simple in nature. Often times however, being a comedy channel and the absolute most popular at that, he often threw criticism at online media that covered him and wrote about him. So he very often made tweets, and most notably videos that often poked fun at media that took certain things he has said and done out of context to put him into a bad light, and that anything ever written about him in the media are almost always written with a negative connotation.

In response, he often made jokes that he was actually a Nazi and a die hard Trump supporter, dressing up in stereotyped costumes of said people in videos, poking fun at their image as well as online media taking things out of context at times. Later on, he would make a video where he would have fun with a website he found where he would pay 5 dollars, and they would make any video saying anything he wanted. So he tested the limits of the website by having them say awful things like, “Kill all Jews.”

Normally, it can be obviously inferred that the joke doesn’t work unless what was being said to be considered awful, however the Wall Street Journal, what was seen as one of the more trustworthy publications out there, actually took many of these sets of videos and wrote a very damning hit piece on Felix. With no sense of irony, they took the many videos he uploaded for the sole purpose of parodying the things taken out of context, and used the clips out of context to frame him as a White Supremacist Neo Nazi.

(You must have a subscription with the Wall Street Journal to view the written article in question, but the video is public for everyone)

In reaction, the Wall Street Journal lost many subscribers, their video version of the events have been down voted immensely, and fans who already know about who Felix is and his character, have defended him fiercly on social media websites. A vast majority of gaming personalities, developers, and writers all showed support on Twitter in various ways, numerous Youtube videos were made in response to the Wall Street Journal and how they bizarrely they handled the coverage of Felix. Of course, this met with people taking the WSJ’s side on the matter as well. Most notably, J.K. Rowling herself actually debated with a large number of people on Twitter on the matter.

This would spark a really great debate on many social media platforms whether what was considered acceptable as jokes, and whether some jokes were harmful for society, and the nature of jokes themselves. Youtube itself for a week had many popular Youtubers coming to PewDiePie’s defense that would heat up the online debate and cause a pseudo intellectual/culture war on the Internet.

Since then, Felix has made a video responding to all of these articles written about him in response to Wall Street Journal, saying he apologizes for anyone he may have offended, but that he does not promote hate in any manner. But he still condemmed the WSJ and the media in general for trying to bring him down by being dishonest as well as call out hypocrites who have also joked about Nazi’s in the past. With one of them, surprisingly being Ben Fritz, one of the writers of the WSJ article.

Sometimes even the biggest names, like J.K. Rowling and the Wall Street Journal, aren’t immune to vast criticism on social media. And the exchange of ideas on Social Media might spark an otherwise interesting debate.

Advertising, Brainwashing, and Free Will

By Ian Melo

Where is the line drawn between advertising and brainwashing? This discussion must begin at the widely accepted definitions of the terms, and then works its way toward a reasonable understanding of how we see them in action in today’s world. Advertisements are promotion for commercial products or services, and brainwashing refers to the process of indoctrination of a person to a new set of beliefs, usually by threat or pressure.

The fact that brainwashing is accepted as something that can be done unto another person is proof enough that one man can impact the will of another man. The idea that through repetition and deception and pressure people can be broken down and coerced into action that they previously would not have considered has frightening implications on the weakness of human free will. To what degree can people be influenced in other ways? To put it in terms of this discussion, how much pressure must be exerted upon a person before they buy a product they would not have bought otherwise?

The Federal Communications Commission has addressed the issue of public coercion when faced with the problem of subliminal advertising. In 1974, when an ad contained the statement “Get It” in a manner that was so rapid that the viewer was unaware it was happening, they issued a statement admonishing such behavior as “contrary to the public interest”. However, they did not declare these tactics illegal, or even acknowledge whether they were effective or not, but only used their platform to condemn such deceptive tactics. No official lines were ever drawn in that regard.

The question becomes, then, what was the FCC afraid of? They were afraid of people being brainwashed by advertisements, advertisements that compel the viewer using means that have no relation to the actual product or service that is purportedly being advertised. And I think we can all agree that ads these days are less about the product and more about the appeal of the ad itself, an ad that appeals to the viewer on some level that the brand does not. It has become an artform in itself.

Of course, there is a lot of science that is yet to be done with regard to the impact of this sort of advertising on the human mind. Can our free will filter out these advertisements completely? That is yet to be seen, and seems to be the ethic that ad agencies use to justify what they do. But I think the science does need to be done. I do not think this is a non-issue, especially in the increasingly interconnected world we live in today.


Social media has created a medium for advertisers to impact more people in a more direct way than ever before. The effectiveness of this medium is not only being acknowledged, it is being pounced upon. Budgets for social media advertising doubled in the U.S. in just two years, 2014 to 2016, jumping from $16 billion to $31 billion. The impact of such drastic increase in consumption deserves to be studied.

Be the Bigger Brand

By Joshua Olivares

We’ve all heard the saying of being the bigger person when it comes to certain situations. This just means to take the high road and don’t get caught up on the little things. Well the people of Hanz De Fuko have never heard of this. Most people (who watch Men’s hair channels lol) know of Hanz De Fuko. They’re a brand that has made a name for themselves when it comes to hair products especially with celebrities such as David Beckham and Bruno Mars using their products. They’re most known product is Claymation, which is actually a really good product that I’ve used in the past. Another way, which is arguably the most important way they’ve become a staple in Men’s hair is the YouTube influencers they have gotten to promote they’re products.

 This picture is of David Beckham, By 

What better way to show thanks to these YouTubers then to start “calling” them out for trying to make their own hair products. It’s very hard to find this information when trying to search for it. There is some things you can find around Reddit but I typically think of Reddit as more opinioned based with that community. With that Joseph Andrews who runs the Blumaan YouTube channel made a decent video explaining the attacks from Hanz De Fuko. For those of you who don’t know Joseph has a hair product called Original by Blumaan. Hanz De Fuko has been leaving comments on his channel calling him out. They’re not just saying things like this is a bad product they begin making dangerous claims saying things like the product Original by Blumaan is a white label.

Now as it stands nobody is 100% sure if Hanz De Fuko really meant what they said for a few reasons: They have left a few comments on YouTubers channels apologizing saying that they’re accounts have been hacked. However that’s all they’ve said on the matter was that they were hacked not really a formal apology that one would expect from a big brand. Also to have your account hacked for at least two weeks seems a bit weird. Also in the comments they left they offered people one free product of their choice if they use coupon code “The Truth.” Now unfortunately I wasn’t able to find anyone that has used the code and actually received a free product.

A screenshot from Blumaans most recent video’s comment section. That’s the offical youtube account as well. 

Hanz De Fuko also claims that they’re email was hacked along with their Instagram account. It seems highly unlikely that they were hacked but hey I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It also doesn’t make sense for Joseph Andrews to risk the credibility of his brand for the sake of calling them out for “calling him out”. It seems as of right now that Hanz De Fuko who is the larger brand here isn’t being the bigger brand. They attacked these YouTube influencers that actually helped get their product out into the market for the simple fact that they’re now seen as competition. If it turns out that Hanz De Fuko wasn’t hacked then this could be some really bad publicity for the brand. Everything is hear say right now and that’s the worst part of it.

Blumaan made that video in response to Hanz De Fuko leaving those comment. Hanz De Fuko has made comments on the Blumaan video addressing concerns but not directly apologizing to Blumaan for the false claims made on his product. The ball is currently in Hanz De Fuko’s court and I’m really curious to how this whole thing will play out. Whatever happens next one company will have to be the bigger brand by their actions not it’s products.




  1. Our Story Hanz de Fuko. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from
  2. Andrews, J. (2017, February 17). Hanz De Fuko FIRES SHOTS!! Retrieved February 19, 2017, from
  3. Dold, K. (2015, June 19). Can’t Decide Between Hair Wax or Clay? Now You Don’t Have To. Retrieved February 19, 2017, from
  4. What is white label cloud service? – Definition from (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from

The Truth Hurts: How PR Professionals Should Handle the Social Media Climate

“Things just don’t be like they used to.” You may have heard that sentence from a grandfather or other senior member of your community. Most of the time, they’re wrong, for the most part. Even Socrates talked about how the younger generation is running amok, disrespecting elders and such. But here we are, hundreds of years later, still functioning just fine. Every generation thinks that the next generation in line is ruining everything, and the end of the world is just around the corner. Fortunately, it probably wasn’t. But lately, these grandpa’s may be less wrong than usual.

The explosion of social media really is changing everything. While the expansion is still occurring, social media has been around long enough that we can, to a degree, reflect on its impact on society. And boy is it changing things.

Before the internet, the bulk of a person’s interactions and knowledge came from what they experienced or from interaction with people who experienced something. In the age of social media, knowledge and experiences can be shared with someone across the globe in seconds. Because of that, anyone can find someone who agrees with them on just about any topic.

However, this means that anyone with a wrong idea can find people who agree with their sentiment, and use that agreement to create a self-perpetuating echo chamber. This leads to less developed conversations overall, and blatant hostility towards those who disagree. People lose their desire, and dare I say ability, to think critically. They get so caught up in groupthink that they lose their sense of balance and reality.

One example is the wage gap myth. People form their own opinions such as “women are at an extreme disadvantage in society.” This statement may in fact be true in a lot of ways. But whether or not it is, the idea will get bolstered by blatantly false information until the cows come home. Women do not earn 77 cents to every dollar a male earns. Many economists agree the gap is closer to 6.6 cents, and probably lower. Even people with the best intentions can still cause harm to an idea or movement. One thing to note, every group, popular opinion, or “side” is affected by the phenomenon.

What does this mean for PR professionals? They must hold themselves accountable to distributing truthful content. A person is smart, but people are dumb. Specifically journalists and trusted organizations, they must be careful what they post. It must be objective and true, and if it contains an opinion, it should be marked as such. PR is in part conveying information to the public. This issue of being objective in touchy topics may not come up every day. But when it does, a PR professional must be able to be objective, and know that whatever they say, it is true and good. For everyone’s good.


For information on the wage gap-

For information on Socrates sentiment-

For information on group think-

Photo credit is from this article-