From the click of terror to collective panic: fear in times of interconnectedness
We wanted to approach fear in a different way for this #Halloween, that emotion that we can also feel on interaction platforms, through a radio broadcast, when reading a note with false information or spreading collective panic.
We have gathered 4 of these topics in this brief investigation: Dark Patterns, Fake News, Infodemia and Collective Panic, which although they have been little explored from these emotions, it is terrifying to think that they happen to us, especially when living in a time of digital interconnection and being exposed to multiple forms and means of communication.
They are deceptive interactions or interfaces designed to manipulate users’ decisions on a website. This term was coined in 2010, following the boom of e-commerce industries on the web. Its purpose is to generate more sales, obtain subscriptions and reach target numbers in transactions, etc.
It is common for us to think that behind the “bad design” there is a careless or lazy designer with no bad intentions. Darks Patterns are an example of bad designs, made with a bad intention, because they take into account human psychology to ignore or disqualify the user’s interest.
There are 11 types of Dark Patterns recognized by Harry Brignull* on his website called darkpatterns.org, a library aimed at naming deceptive interfaces. We present 6 of these:
Bait and Switch
When a user seeks to perform one action but gets another. Click on an X and instead of closing the window, the system is updated, is an example.
The pattern is adopted so that the ads are camouflaged on the page as if they were part of the browser content.
The user registers for a free trial but has to enter credit card details. When the test is completed, you begin to receive charges.
When the product requests the user’s email or network permissions under the pretext of a desirable result to find friends but sends a spam to all your contacts.
When a user follows several steps to make the payment and in the last one discovers that some unexpected charges have appeared.
It is about tricking the user into publicly sharing more information about him/her than he/she actually intended.
*diseñador de experiencias de usuario con un doctorado en Ciencia Cognitiva (agosto, 2010).
It is a term used to refer to the dissemination of false news that causes a dangerous circle of disinformation.
Social networks allow users to be both producers and consumers of content at the same time, and have facilitated the dissemination of misleading, false or fabricated content.
This generates a vicious circle, and a fake news story is replicated thousands of times in a matter of seconds. There are many types of Fake News and most are intended to manipulate or mislead.
All this is taking place in a context of
and refers to confirming the veracity of facts being less important in shaping public opinion (Oxford, 2016).
Types of fake news:
Satire or parody: not intended to cause harm or deception .
Misleading content: false information to incriminate.
Imposter content: information that supplants genuine sources.
Fabricated content: new content that is predominantly false, specially designed to deceive and mislead.
False connection: When headlines, images or captions do not confirm the content.
False context: When genuine content is disseminated with false context information.
Manipulated content: When genuine information or images are manipulated to mislead .
How do we disprove Fake News? The Poynter Institute published in 2015 a note by Alexios Mantzarlis indicating tips for debunking fake news:
- Before you start debunking, make sure you are not sharing false rumors.
- Use customized searches; filtering a search will help you find the truth faster.
- Check the image. If you use Google Chrome, you can drag and drop the photo into Google Images. This will check whether the image corresponds to the event in question.
- It is recommended to have a human search engine, i.e. certain people with whom you can consult and check conclusions.
- Find someone local who can provide crucial context: if you don’t know anyone, some accounts such as Twitter have geolocation options, which can be useful for finding witnesses to the events.
Infodemic refers to a large increase in information related to a particular topic, which can become exponential in a short period of time due to a specific incident such as the current pandemic.
As stated by WHO, the COVID-19 outbreak has been accompanied by an excessive amount of information – in some cases correct, in others not – making it difficult for people to find reliable sources and trustworthy guidance.
How do we relate infodemia to fear? In its consequences. The infodemic can worsen the pandemic if reliable information does not reach decision-makers and even health personnel correctly. Among the sources they attribute to infodemia are: cell phone applications, scientific organizations, websites, blogs, influencers, among others.
Due to infodemia people may suffer from anxiety, depression, overwhelm, emotional exhaustion and feel unable to meet important needs. It can affect decision-making processes when immediate answers are expected, but insufficient time is allocated to thoroughly analyze scientific data.
How can we avoid infodemia about COVID-19?
- Rely on information from the World Health Organization.
- Recognize scientific data.
- Avoid fake news.
- Determine whether the information really makes sense, even if it comes from a secure source.
- Report and deny damaging rumors.
- If you cannot confirm the source of the information, do not share it.
- Participate responsibly in social conversations.
- Continue to collaborate and exchange information responsibly.
- Corroborate the source, particularly in WhatsApp threads.
Collective panic is an intense emotion that we experience when a news item generates a threatening impact on us. It can be triggered by psychosocial, political, economic, cultural, media manipulation issues or more.
How does one arrive at collective panic? When we feel that everything that is fixed around us is suddenly altered and we believe that there is no solution.
An example of collective panic
is the radio broadcast that Orson Welles made in 1938 to promote his play ”The War of the Worlds”.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have a serious announcement to make. The strange object that fell early this afternoon in Grovers Milis, New Jersey, was not a meteorite. Incredible as it may seem, the object contains strange beings that are believed to be the vanguard of an army from the planet Mars. We now know that, since the beginning of the 20th century, our planet has been closely observed by intelligences more developed than humans.
It is important to remember that emotion is a fundamental part of how collective panic spreads. One of the most important functions of emotion is to connect our biological nature with the world in which it is found. Perhaps Orson Welles’ intention was not to provoke fear on the radio, but the audience’s emotions unleashed panic.
What to do in case any news generates fear or, in other cases, panic?
- Review sources.
- Compare testimonials with reliable people.
- Do not share information through social networks until you are sure.
- Detect those small areas or zones through which we can empower ourselves.