The Simp Economy
We go on the internet with different reasons and goals in mind. It could be to find out the answer to a burning question, chat with a friend or watch a few dog videos. One similarity all activities share is consuming your attention. Monetisation of attention as a business model has led businesses to strategically capture our attention and engagement for profit. Individuals have also adapted, creating a branch known as the Simp Economy.
A New Simp
Why do people form connections with people they’ve never met or interacted with? In 1968 a psychologist named Robert Zajonc conducted a series of experiments on how we perceive familiarity. He would post nonsense words such as “civadra” or “saricik” on the front page of student newspapers for several weeks and ask at the end if they thought the words meant something good or bad.¹ He found that the words he frequently repeated, the more they were associated with a positive connotation versus the words that appeared only once or twice. Zajonc proposed that repeated exposure to a stimulus can create a feeling of warmth and trustworthiness, known as the mere exposure effect. Basically, the more you see something, the more you’ll tend to have a preference for it.
Makes sense right? Interestingly, this effect also applies with seeing people. In 1992, a time before cancel culture, a study tested this idea by having four women attend certain classes and pose as students². Each women attended a different number of times, 0, 5, 10 or 15 times. These women did not interact with other students and only sat in to listen to the lecture. At the end of the semester, the students rated each woman on several scales such as attractiveness, familiarity and similarity.
The results were consistent. Students developed an affinity towards the woman they had seen the most, rating her more attractive and similar to themselves than ones they had seen less. Just by repeatedly seeing someone, even with no interaction, can foster a sense of closeness towards them, albeit a one-way relationship.
The Simps Awaken
What happens when you throw social media into the mix? There’s no doubt that social media has affected our social cognition, changing the way we perceive…