Is it any coincidence that the race to the bottom in media—toward clickbait headlines, toward the vulgar and prurient and dumb, toward provocative but often exaggerated takes—has accelerated in lock-step with the development of new technologies for measuring engagement?
Increase Your Web Traffic And Decrease Your Quality With This One Weird Trick!
Q. What makes you think that people have become addicted to digital devices and social media?
A. In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.
How do you define “addiction?”
The definition I go with is that it has to be something you enjoy doing in the short term, that undermines your well-being in the long term — but that you do compulsively anyway.
But those two months I did nothing but play Crossy Road—that was just time well spent.
We’re biologically prone to getting hooked on these sorts of experiences. If you put someone in front of a slot machine, their brain will look qualitatively the same as when they take heroin. If you’re someone who compulsively plays video games — not everyone, but people who are addicted to a particular game — the minute you load up your computer, your brain will look like that of a substance abuser.
Seems like we can’t go two minutes without our phones buzzing, trying to pull us away from whatever we were doing to instead look at a screen.
This started out innocently: as a way to let you know that someone was personally communicating with you; a figurative tap on the shoulder through the magic of the internet.
BZZZ 📲⚡️ A friend sent you a message
But at some point this snowballed into us defaulting into allowing the entire world to tap us on the shoulder in the middle of family dinner.
BZZZ 📲⚡️ A friend sent you a message!
BZZZ 📲⚡️ West Elm is having yet another sale!
BZZZ 📲⚡️ An acquaintance of yours just tweeted for the first time in weeks!
BZZZ 📲⚡️ Oops! You forgot to compulsively check a meaningless app today! Did you accidentally let real life distract you?
BZZZ 📲⚡️ A spambot just added you on a social network!
Not only is that just annoying, but it’s partially responsible for actually changing our brains, which I will demonstrate to you using this simple test:
I’ve been working on features for this website lately, one of which has been figuring out silly social sharing links. I’ve had a website long enough to remember the days of building a comment system in Perl, having a hit counter, and that being good enough.
Now you need to have all sorts of crap on a page in order to make sharing as easy as possible. One option is to piecemeal all the different networks together, but that requires giving up some control of your aesthetic, which I am not a fan of.
Or you use a plugin like AddThis, which makes all that easier, maintains some control of your aesthetic, and also allows the people on your site a comical number of options for sharing.