Tech isn’t morally good or bad until it’s wielded by the corporations that fashion it for mass consumption. Apps and platforms can be designed to promote rich social connections; or, like cigarettes, they can be designed to addict. Today, unfortunately, many tech developments do promote addiction.
Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter is a very great book about how most of the technology products we use daily are irresistible and invariably addictive. From Social Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to Addictive Games such as World of Warcraft to Flappy Bird. I found the book paradigm-shifting, just the way I felt after reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.
In Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today’s products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.
We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.
By reverse-engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.
Addictions bring the promise of immediate reward, or positive reinforcement. In contrast, obsessions and compulsions are intensely unpleasant to not pursue.
Here are my favourite take aways from reading irresistable by Adam Alter: