Severe addiction frequently involves the removal of all other things in our life so that our focus is concentrated on one thing - one act - one substance - one piece of technology. As we’ve seen, this is happening to most of us, through the devices we use to communicate every day.
But surely app and website developers aren’t out there trying to make addicts of us and our children? Or are they?
A habit is at work when users feel a tad bored and instantly open Twitter. They feel a pang of loneliness and before rational thought occurs, they are scrolling through their Facebook feeds. A question comes to mind and before searching their brains, the query Google. The first-to-mind solution wins. In chapter 1 of this book, we explore the competitive advantages of habit-forming products.
This is from a book called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products that teaches companies how to make addicts of their customers.
But addiction, claim the authors, is not something you or I have to worry about, it ‘tends to manifest in people with a particular psychological profile’.
Let’s check the research on that. Alas, no footnotes or references. Perhaps we can just trust the authors’ judgement? They continue: ‘Even though the world is becoming a potentially more addictive place, most people have the ability to self-regulate their behaviours… As long as they have procedures in place to assist those who form unhealthy addictions, the designer can act with a clean conscience.’
Self-regulation? Did it work for cigarettes? Has it worked for alcohol? Could we imagine the alcohol industry putting procedures in place to assist those who form unhealthy addictions? Better still, could we one day see Facebook or Candy Crush employ thousands of standby counsellors? Ready to be deployed throughout the world the moment their product has become too addictive for the child or adult?
The authors go on to mention a game designer who ‘rightfully compared addictive technology to cigarettes’. However, they remind us that ‘unlike the addiction to nicotine, new technologies offer an opportunity to dramatically improve users’ lives.’
When we’re in the grips of an addiction, it matters little what the object of our devotion is. Whether it’s money, phones, alcohol, ice or heroin, if it results in poor health - or worse, death - the harms are equal.
READ MORE IN ADDICTED?