Category / Self

Nir’s Note: This Q&A recently appeared on the 15five.com blog and it pulled out some thoughts I’ve been chewing on regarding technology, addiction, and our relationship with the products we use. I’ve edited it slightly and hope you find it interesting.

Should We Worry About the World Becoming More Addictive?

Question: Pokémon GO is all the rage right now. Can you talk about that in the context of a habit forming product? Is it negative or positive?

Nir Eyal: We have to think of technology in the broader context of the environment that we live in. The knee jerk reaction that always occurs with a new technology is that we don’t like it. We are averse to change and fear new technologies.

The suspects may surprise you.

Recently, the Pokemon Go phenomenon has reigniting the question of technology’s role in changing behavior.

To put things in perspective, I wanted to share the main points of an article I published on the topic titled, Who’s Really Addicting Us to Technology?in a slide presentation below. It’ll give you a quick rundown of the “suspects” responsible for our tech addiction.

Please let me know your feedback and if you enjoyed the slides, please share them.

Who’s Really Addicting You to Technology? Check out these slides Click To Tweet

Related articles you may enjoy:

You have just a few days to learn everything there is to know about a subject you know nothing about. Now what?

pablo (4)“Don’t boil the ocean,” Terry said as he slapped a tall stack of papers on my desk. “Just tell us what we need to know.”

I was staring at a serious problem. To help our firm win a multimillion-dollar consulting contract, I had five days to tell my new boss everything there was to know about airline bankruptcies. Problem was, I didn’t know the first thing about airline bankruptcies.

I barely knew the first thing about anything. It was my first month of my first job out of college, and I had no idea how I—a 23-year-old with zero existing insights on the industry—was going to tell a senior partner anything that wasn’t going to get me fired.

Nir’s Note: This guest post is an excerpt from my friend Ryan Holiday’s new book, Ego Is the Enemy. Ryan is the author of three other books and his monthly reading recommendations, which go out to 50,000+ subscribers, can be found here. 

It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character.

—Marcus Aurelius

EgoIsTheEnemy_final jacketJohn DeLorean ran his car company into the ground with a mix of outsized ambition, negligence, narcissism, greed, and mismanagement. As the bad news began to pile up and the picture was made clear and public, how do you think he responded? Was it with resigned acceptance? Did he acknowledge the errors his disgruntled employees were speaking out about for the first time? Was he able to reflect, even slightly, on the mistakes and decisions that had brought him, his investors, and his employees so much trouble?

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Illustration by Liz Fosslien

Chances are you’ve experienced the following: You’re with a small group of friends at a nice restaurant. Everyone is enjoying the food and conversation when someone decides to take out his phone — not for an urgent call, but to check email, Instagram, and Facebook.

Maybe you’ve witnessed this behavior and found it unsettling. So what do you do? Do you sit idly by, thinking disparaging thoughts? Or do you call out the offender?

For years, I accepted ill-timed tech use as a sign of the times. Sherry Turkle, an author and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, diagnosed the situation succinctly: these days, “We expect more from technology and less from each other.”

I used to do nothing in the face of indiscriminate gadget use. Now, I’ve come to believe that doing nothing is no longer O.K. Staying silent about bad technology habits is making things worse for all of us.

When my wife and I moved to New York City in 2001, recently graduated from college and newly wed, we were eager to find friends. We knew nearly no one but were sure we’d soon find a fun-loving group like the 20- and 30-something New Yorkers who spontaneously dropped in on one another on TV shows like Seinfeld and Friends.

We hatched a plan. After moving into our Midtown Manhattan apartment, we invited all the neighbors over for drinks by placing Kinko’s-printed quarter-sheets into everyone’s mailboxes. Then, we waited for our versions of Chandler, Kramer, and Elaine to show up. But they didn’t. In fact, no one did. As the ice in the cooler melted and the guacamole browned, not a single person among 100 apartments stopped by. Not. One. Person.

pablo (1)

“Nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet,” wrote Tony Schwartz in a recent essay in The New York Times. It’s a common complaint these days. A steady stream of similar headlines accuse the Net and its offspring apps, social media sites and online games of addicting us to distraction.

There’s little doubt that nearly everyone who comes in contact with the Net has difficulty disconnecting. Just look around. People everywhere are glued to their devices. Many of us, like Schwartz, struggle to stay focused on tasks that require more concentration than it takes to post a status update. As one person ironically put it in the comments section of Schwartz’s online article, “As I was reading this very excellent article, I stopped at least half a dozen times to check my email.”

By the looks of his laptop, Robbert Van Els could be mistaken for a secret agent. His screen is an explosion of urgent files — a master control center for managing clandestine operatives. The man of mystery persona is typified by a side-sliding sports car winding through an onslaught of Word docs and Jpeg files. Just looking at his desktop can raise your blood pressure.

But Van Els is not a secret agent. He’s a mess.

before desktop distraction

Val Els’ desktop before

 

In fact, Van Els’ LinkedIn profile says he is in the “custom made earplugs” business. Apparently, there is no correlation between the mayhem on one’s laptop and the adventure in one’s life. Anyone can find themselves drowning in desktop clutter and research suggests this digital detritus costs us time, degrades performance, and kills concentration.

hard habits and goalsThere’s a saying that you should never trust a skinny chef. By that logic, you should never trust an out of shape behavioral designer.

Over the past four years, I’ve discovered many incredible ways to hack my habits and improve my life. I have taught myself to love running, dramatically improved my diet and found the focus to write a bestselling book. Understanding how the mind works and using it to affect my daily behaviors has yielded tremendous dividends.

Never trust an out of shape behavioral designer. Click To Tweet

However, there is one goal that’s nagged at me for years that despite my best efforts, I’ve never been able to achieve — going to the gym consistently. I hate lifting weights. Hate it. I disdain the strain, the sweat, the smells — all of it. The only thing I like about working out are the results. Unfortunately, there’s no way to enjoy the benefits of going to the gym without, you know, actually going to the gym.

I recently presented a new talk about how to manage digital distraction using the Hook Model. I hope you enjoy the brief video below.

Also, I’ve been thinking of writing more on this topic. Let me know what you think.

Is this an interesting topic? Do you struggle with digital distractions?

Tell me more about what might help or what questions you’d like me to tackle so I know what direction to take my research and writing.

Thank you!

– Nir