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The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

By Adam Alter
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Irresistible by Adam Alter

Irresistible (2017) shows how dangerously dependent we’ve become on the smartphones, tablets, video games and social platforms that we’ve surrounded ourselves with. Is our attachment to these devices strictly related to the convenience they provide? Or have we actually grown addicted to the psychological rewards they offer?

Key idea 1 of 9

You really can be addicted to your smartphone or video games.

How would you feel if you couldn’t use your smartphone for a day? How about an entire week? It’s not a scenario most of us enjoy contemplating; indeed, most of us start to get anxious if we’re separated from our device for just a few hours.

Unsettlingly, this modern relationship with phones has revealed a new type of addiction.

Perhaps you’ve asked yourself whether you’re spending too much time on your phone and not enough time with your friends and loved ones. If you have, you’re not alone. This is exactly what Kevin Holesh was thinking in 2014 when he developed a new app called Moment.

Moment’s purpose is to collect user data and determine exactly how much time people are spending glued to their mobile devices. While Moment’s users generally believe they spend around 90 minutes a day staring at their phone, the app reveals that people pick up their device roughly 40 times throughout the day and spend, on average, a total of three hours staring at it.

Guidelines for healthy use suggest spending no more than an hour a day on a phone, but 88 percent of Moment’s users far exceeded this limit.

Video games are another majorly addictive technology.

World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, has created an especially immersive and interactive virtual world that allows people to create their own avatar and embark on quests where they encounter other online users in real time.

Millions of users log in to this world every day, and, according to video-game specialist Jeremy Reimer, up to 40 percent of them become addicted.

As a result, treatment centers are popping up worldwide – such as ReStart, a facility near Seattle that was created as a joint venture between a psychologist and a computer programmer.

In the blinks that follow, we’ll take a closer look at the science behind addiction and what you can do to help keep yourself from getting hooked.

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