Samsung has become what some would call a “meme” to Generation Z today. No matter how many new models come out, no matter how amazing their cameras are, no matter how easy their user interface becomes, they will never be able to infiltrate the technological culture of today’s youth. This is for one reason: Apple didn’t make themselves better than their competitors — they made it impossible to leave their web of interconnected products.
The second you stop using an iPhone, you lose a world of capabilities as well. You can’t join a group chat with over 10 people. You can’t receive AirDropped pictures or send pictures to iCloud. Say goodbye to Apple Pay, iMessage, Apple Wallet and more. Good luck transferring your contacts and data with no iCloud and a new interface. There may be a million reasons that a new phone company transcends Apple, but they will never be able to hold a candle to Apple’s digital army.
This quite literally captivating nature demonstrates the ways in which technology and social media companies have trapped us. As a young adult, it is impossible to live without an assortment of technology tools that have become as essential to us as food and water. In high school, I was the last of my friends to get Snapchat. A seemingly insignificant plight in today’s world, this one detail proved to be a large impediment in communicating with my peers.
The modern world of flirting takes place increasingly online, and especially over Snapchat (ask any girl the last time a guy asked her for her actual number; I can guarantee she will have a hard time remembering). I watched as my friends “snapped” their love interests, made group chats and posted stories. All the while I watched from afar, in the social media-less jail I felt I was in.
What people don’t tell you, however, is that this spectacular world of social media, led by the confines of Snapchat and Instagram, isn’t so glamorous after all. Those “guys” my friends were talking to were really just asking for nudes. Instagram wasn’t about promoting confidence, but instead tearing it down. This life was a numbers game: how many followers, how many likes, how many streaks, etc.
So why do we do it? Why do we feed into a system that continually hurts us, tears us down and takes away from our face-to-face human connections with others? The answer isn’t in the allure of what these companies have to offer, or the factors — addictive colors, algorithms and even notification sounds — that keep you in. It’s in the reality of being unable to leave once you’ve entered.
The way technology companies market, whether it be hardware (Apple, Samsung), cell service providers (AT&T, Verizon) or social media (Instagram, Snapchat), is making it harder and harder for you to leave. They’ve taken over communication. iMessage, Snapchat, Instagram and Tiktok live on the home screens of a large majority of American young adults. 75% of adults aged 18 to 24 reported using Snapchat in 2021, along with 76% using Instagram and 55% using Tiktok. As these have become our most natural modes of communication, trying to live without them can also mean significantly decreasing the degree to which you communicate with those around you.
When social media companies market, they fight to be the most necessary, the most innovative. Snapchat comes out with stories, and soon after Instagram has them as well. Instagram creates its user interface where users scroll through posts? Now TikTok exists with the exact same interface. As social media companies borrow ideas from each other, the battle over which company can be the most essential continues. As we fall further into the rabbit hole of these apps, our ways of communication become more and more reliant on them. Additionally, the increased feeling of FOMO (the fear of missing out) makes it impossible to leave.
I’ve discussed how hardware and social media companies contribute to our dependence on technology, but what role do cell service providers play in this? When these companies come out with deals, it’s always along the lines of “join now and you’ll receive something.” These deals are targeted toward rewarding new customers, but almost never toward rewarding existing ones. This may seem like nothing more than a common marketing strategy, but think of this in comparison to beauty companies, for example. The deals these companies offer are often something along the lines of “our rewards members get this, so become a rewards member.”
These deals are attractive to new customers, but they also continue to reward and entice existing customers. The difference? These beauty customers can leave at any moment, but the patrons of the phone companies can’t. They’re locked into the world of cell phones, unable to function without their iPhones. The phone companies aren’t drawing new people in. Instead, the best they can do is entice existing phone customers to switch to their provider. The time and energy that making the switch requires, however, is irritating enough that it is often reason enough for people to stay with their current cell service provider.
How does this compare to other industries? With beauty companies, for instance, there is a recognition that you can and will be patrons of many other beauty stores and products. The goal isn’t to steal you, it’s to get you. But with technology companies, they recognize you’ve already been sucked into a captive world that you are unable to leave. They develop and market to draw you deeper and deeper into the world. Staying doesn’t become more exciting — leaving becomes harder.
So no matter how many times you say that you hate technology, that you want to take a break from social media or that you’re going to go back to a flip phone, the reality is that, most likely, you won’t. You, like the rest of us, are captive in a world of our own making, and the future shows no signs of this changing. Claudia Flynn is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at email@example.com