55 Comments

Summary:

Tech companies have become increasingly adept at manufacturing desire, but to what end? Behavior designer Jason Hreha argues that the industry needs to seriously consider the impact of its products. Are we helping our users lead better lives, or are we making them compulsive, impatient and distractible?

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I am a behavior designer. I take a deep understanding of human psychology and emerging research in the behavioral sciences to build products that change user behavior in planned and predictable ways. However, these days I’m somewhat dismayed by the persistent chatter about building “addictive” products. When did addiction become an admirable thing to cultivate?

As members of the tech industry, we need to ask serious questions about the behaviors that we are promoting. Are we really helping people live better lives? Or, are we promoting suboptimal habits and aptitudes? At best, many of the products we’re building are time wasters. At worst, they’re the addictive equivalents of cigarettes — irresistible cheap thrills that feel good in the moment, but are destructive in the long run. “Addictive” products are rampant in our lives — Facebook, Farmville (or any Zynga game), Twitter, Pinterest. The list goes on and on.

With Web products, the general assumption is that user attention can eventually be turned into money, so revenue models are often postponed. In this paradigm, success is measured in terms of user acquisition and retention. The more users you have, and the more time they spend on the site, the better. Designers of these products have learned to manufacture desire — and they’ve gotten really good at it. Services such as Facebook and Farmville constantly interrupt the lives of their users by sending out push notifications like there’s no tomorrow. But this shift towards compulsive and chronic usage might have some unintended consequences.

I worry that by promoting constant task switching and multitasking, the Internet is changing our attention. Just as muscles grow stronger with use, and persistent practice makes any skill better, some of our most subtle mental abilities grow or wither with our choices. It’s rare for a whole hour to go by without some interruption from our phones (or email, etc.), and computer and mobile interfaces have made multitasking easier than ever. While the jury is still out, it’s a real possibility that heavy multitasking is increasing compulsiveness and distractibility.

So what do we do? To me, the answer is simple. We should ask “why.” If we’re going to bring positive creations into the world, we need to seriously think about how our products are going to fit into, and enrich, people’s lives. What’s the reason we’re building these products in the first place? “To get acquired” or “to make a lot of money,” shouldn’t necessarily be our answers. Focusing on maximizing certain metrics, and creating numerically “successful” products, distracts us from bigger questions about the purpose of technology, and what role we as technologists should play in the larger community.

I believe that the purpose of technology is to take over the grating, tedious tasks that we have had to put up with for so long, so that we can live fuller, more interesting lives. In short, technology allows us to be even more human by becoming less mechanistic.

If none of us ever had to work, I think that our activities would cluster into three areas: art, interpersonal interaction and discovery (science, academic research, curiosity). While this is a much longer discussion, I worry that our community is aiming to make technology and content consumption our primary activity, instead of helping us engage in these creative and personal endeavors.

I’m not trying to be the crotchety, out-of-touch naysayer. Personally, I love LOLcats, Reddit, and many other services that could be classified as time wasters. The trick is moderation. The problem is that we, as a product design community, are purposely trying to create compulsions.

I don’t have the answers. I’m not saying that we should stop building. I’m just saying that we should take a hard look at ourselves and determine whether or not we’re bringing value to the world. We have the chance to do something spectacular with technology. We have the chance to make billions of lives easier and more enjoyable. We have the chance to free people from tedium. Let’s take this opportunity to build timesaving — and lifesaving — services, not quick hits.

This is a call to make more Amazons, eBays, and AirBnBs. A call to build fewer Zyngas. As I said before, I don’t have the answer. But with all the brainpower in Silicon Valley, I think we can figure this out. I’d like to use this post as a starting point for the discussion. Let’s hash it out, together, in the comments below.

Jason is the founder of Dopamine (ironic, we know), a behavior/UX design firm based in San Francisco. He named the company after his favorite neurotransmitter, which is involved in learning as well as addiction. It’s a reminder of design’s ability to be either helpful or, if misused, harmful. He is also a UX mentor for 500 Startups and a researcher in the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab. He blogs at persuasive.ly

Image courtesy of Flickr user xjara69.

  1. Well done. I agree with pretty much all that you said.

    What is most annoying is that some of these time wasters won’t take “I quit” seriously, and keep on pushing stuff at you.

    Perhaps it is time to go back to the days for .45 calibre punctuation .

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  2. Great article Jason. Thank you for writing it. This hints at the larger question that has always persisted in Silicon Valley (and in the business community in general). Do you create something for profit or for impact?

    As you indicated, the answer doesn’t have to be one or the other – if we can use “addiction” to drive positive behavior (Health & Wellness apps, Learning apps, etc) , then it is a win win.

    The only issue is you will always have those that are purely profit driven (both on the entrepreneur and the VC front); there is not much the community can do to stop those people as they work with each other.

    You have to take the good with the bad. Hopefully articles like this will influence some of the younger folks that are in Silicon Valley so they can lean more towards the good. Additionally, most of the “bad” leaning companies eventually die out and are not able to sustain for the long-term.

    I see this as a call for socially-responsible behavior design. :-)

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    1. Naveed – thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      I think that the profit/impact dichotomy is very interesting. I believe that the job climate of the past few years has channeled more profit/money-motivated individuals into Silicon Valley – since individuals that were more monetarily motivated (and would have gone into finance etc.) were not able to get traditional corporate finance jobs in the recession.

      To address another one of your points: I’m not sure that there’s necessarily such a thing as a “positive” addiction.

      From Wikipedia: “Addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behaviour despite adverse dependency consequences,[1] or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.[2]”

      Addictions/compulsions have adverse consequences. Let’s use running as an example of a healthy behavior that someone might want to get people “addicted” to. Running a couple of times a week is good for the body – it’s healthy. However, running more than a certain number of miles a week will hurt the joints and negatively stress other bodily systems. Thus, an individual who has been prompted to compulsively run, is not necessarily in a healthy or desirable situation. Moderation is almost always a good thing – and moderation is exactly what compulsion/addiction destroys.

      Thus, I have a problem with the whole idea of “desirable” addictions. Most things done to excess are harmful.

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  3. Jason,

    This is something we need to be thinking about. But I feel the this shouldn’t be discussed in a morality/productivity context because they tend to be subjective and mean different things to different people.

    I feel addiction should be broken into 2-3 driving factors:

    1. Content: Content can be addictive. The entire cyberporn industry thrives off that premise. When it comes to content, it’s very difficult to draw the line.

    2. Design: I feel there is a fundamental disconnect in the way we build engagement in products. There are far too many false layered incentives (gamified) towards product usage which build compulsive behaviors aimed at short term gratification. I feel that is going to be harmful in the long run. Real engagement where the product delivers delight on a regular basis is quite different. If I follow the right set of people on twitter, it offers me real and sustainable engagement. It doesn’t assk me to keep coming back and interrupting my schedule for some stupid points.

    3. Experiences: Technology is becoming more immersive with mobile and will get worse with wearable computing. If anyone doubts that, look at South Korea where parents fail to take care of their own children while taking care of a virtual puppy (true story, the child died). If you think of it, the offline world and the online world are both interpretations in the brain. If our brain gets too conditioned to the online world, it will start interpreting that as reality.

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    1. Sangeet – thank you so much for these thoughtful comments!

      I love how you broke down addiction, and I think you’re right. Certain content, by its very nature, is addictive. Porn is a great example of what we call a “superstimulus”. It takes advantage of natural affinities we have for certain bodily shapes and fertility markers by exaggerating them through selection, surgery, and film techniques. The donut is another good example of a superstimulus, since it takes advantage of our natural predilection for fat and sugar.

      ===

      As for design… Luckily, most companies do not have a great grasp of classic reinforcement psychology. Otherwise, the products they put out would be far more addictive. The trend I see amongst my friends and colleagues is that most gamified products see an initial, robust spike in engagement, followed by a quick drop into inactivity. This reminds me of my game-playing behavior when I was younger. Most games are made to be completed – there’s an end-point.* That’s why, after a certain amount of time in a gamified product, it seems like most users either feel like they’ve won (and should therefore move on) or that the game/product is boring and improperly designed.

      I also think there’s a bigger issue: Generally, gamified products are not solving a true pain point in the lives of their users.

      Amazon doesn’t need to have points and badges – people come back to it, day after day, because it helps them live an easier, more enjoyable, life. It supplies them with products and services they need to survive and thrive.

      The same thing can’t be said about sites like Turntable.fm, and other heavily gamified services. They don’t provide a solution to any true pain points, so they rely on external value systems (points etc.) to take up a place of importance in the brains of their users.

      ===

      Finally, I think that you made quite a profound point about real vs. digital. I don’t have the time to write about it at this moment – but will follow up with a comment later today.

      * This trend, however, is changing with MMORPGs.

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  4. Jason,

    This is something we need to be thinking about. But I feel the this shouldn’t be discussed in a morality/productivity context because they tend to be subjective and mean different things to different people.

    I feel addiction should be broken into 2-3 driving factors:

    1. Content: Content can be addictive. The entire cyberporn industry thrives off that premise. When it comes to content, it’s very difficult to draw the line.

    2. Design: I feel there is a fundamental disconnect in the way we build engagement in products. There are far too many false layered incentives (gamified) towards product usage which build compulsive behaviors aimed at short term gratification. I feel that is going to be harmful in the long run. Real engagement where the product delivers delight on a regular basis is quite different. If I follow the right set of people on twitter, it offers me real and sustainable engagement. It doesn’t assk me to keep coming back and interrupting my schedule for some stupid points.

    3. Experiences: Technology is becoming more immersive with mobile and will get worse with wearable computing. If anyone doubts that, look at South Korea where parents fail to take care of their own children while taking care of a virtual puppy (true story, the child died). If you think of it, the offline world and the online world are both interpretations in the brain. If our brain gets too conditioned to the online world, it will start interpreting that as reality.

    I am currently thinking a lot about this topic too and keep writing on http://platformed.info

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  5. Excellent post Jason!

    My take on things:

    1. current economic system doesn’t incentivise “good” companies. Companies just need to make money, so that’s what they do.
    2. learning about human behavior and addiction seems to be a good way to drive profits. So markets push the development of this knowledge
    3. there are companies that look for the sweet spot people, profit, planet
    4. the latter companies will also profit from the knowlegde that is being developed by “bad” companies

    A change in the incentives within the current would have great potential to make the world a better place. Until that time it’s hoping for more human companies that will do great.

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    1. Arjan – nice points.

      Traditionally, negative externalities are taxed and ventures with positive externalities are subsidized. However, I’m not really one for government intervention. I hope that people can vote with their pocketbooks, punishing companies that produce mental negative externalities (increased compulsiveness, distractibility, etc.) by turning away from them.

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      1. Hi Jason,

        I think Harvard Prof. Michael Sandel makes a pretty good case for where to draw the line. What is the responsibilty of government and what’s not.

        That still leaves great potential for a new economic system that rewards good.

        But as you know humans a pretty complex. Take Ecotax for example an incentive to behave more sustainable. But as Dan Ariely showed with his daycare study that taxing (or fining) something changes the frame of an activity and can even increase bad behavior.

        Enough work to be done for behavioral scientists like yourself ;-)

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  6. Finally, an intelligent and honest article.
    This behaviour you have described originates a lot in Silicon Valley. Also a lot of genuine world problems are still not addressed by the tech world. But the real shocker is that the vast amount of moneys paid to startups which yield little…best example being hotmail. And how VCs keep funding peculiar businesses and how cos even buy them for outrageous sums. Why should people not aim to exploit the entire mindless ecosystems ?

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  7. Antawn souffrant Monday, September 3, 2012

    Growth companies (I.e., Apple) must continue to spur revenue streams. New products and services are the lifeblood of growth companies. Improved versions of products,which are produced and sold reccuringly, create addictive habits for consumers. Their are a variety of reasons that consumers of growth companies develope addictive purchasing habits.The addictive purchasing habits for consumers are both fashionably and functionally induced. Fashionable trends(I.e., design and asscesory ) impairs consumers,causing unwarranted repeat business.Minor improvements are made to products during recurring introductory periods. Rather than making educated purchases,consumers are convinced by advertising,indicating that the latest devices must be an infallibly necessary purchase.

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    1. Antawn – you make an interesting point about our society as a whole.

      We seem to live in a society that is extremely focused on external solutions to our problems. Sad? Go get some ice-cream. Happy? You should buy a car!

      It looks as if we have been somewhat conditioned to change, and express, our internal feelings through consumption behavior. Very few objects in our lives, if any, are pure utilities anymore. Our purchases are either representations of our values/selves, or done to change our moods.

      There’s a fascinating documentary about the creation of modern marketing/PR that talks about our shift from a needs-based society to a wants-based society – and how it was engineered by people like Edward Bernays. You should check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Century_of_the_Self

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  8. Dear Jason,

    I’d agree that we have individual lives and a shared world worth investing in for the long-term.

    To me, the problem you state appears similar on both the entrepreneurship side and the consumer side – when we have everyone chasing the cheap hit, we are unable to tap into our potential to do more, to build bigger and better dreams.

    So, how do you change the minds of people pursuing the cheap hit? Seems overly difficult.

    This beckons the question: can we find hits that aren’t inherently at odds with long-term value creation?

    It seems like a good place to start – building products that satisfy short-term desires and simultaneously align with long-term vision, will induce investors and consumers to make increasing investments to get increasing returns.

    The other question I have: can the current ‘cheap hits’ be leveraged into more mature products?

    Taking what’s already available (attention, engagement) and moving these products forward to continually increase the complexity of human expression, and/or to continually deepen the human connection seems like a potential solution addressing the idea that these companies do not create long-term value for people’s lives.

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

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  9. Dear Jason,

    I’d agree that we have individual lives and a shared world worth investing in for the long-term.

    To me, the problem you state appears similar on both the entrepreneurship side and the consumer side – when we have everyone chasing the cheap hit, we are unable to tap into our potential to do more, to build bigger and better dreams.

    So, how do you change the minds of people pursuing the cheap hit? Seems overly difficult.

    This beckons the question: can we find hits that aren’t inherently at odds with long-term value creation?

    It seems like a good place to start – building products that satisfy short-term desires and simultaneously align with long-term vision, will induce investors and consumers to make increasing investments to get increasing returns.

    The other question I have: can the current ‘cheap hits’ be leveraged into more mature products?

    Taking what’s already available (attention, engagement) and moving these products forward to continually increase the complexity of human expression, and/or to continually deepen the human connection seems like a potential solution addressing the idea that these companies do not create long-term value for people’s lives.

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

    Share
    1. “The other question I have: can the current ‘cheap hits’ be leveraged into more mature products?”

      +1

      Good innovators, good designers, good entrepreneurs, AND good consumers continually do this to find the right balance. Sometimes we get it right.

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  10. Let me get my fracking viiolin…

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    1. Don’t even joke about that, it will attract the cylons.

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  11. Arkadiusz Dymalski Monday, September 3, 2012

    Great post and discussion. There’s however one thing worth remembering. No one can prevent users/customers from developing the addiction to the product – that’s human nature. And that’s why the intentions you write about are so important, not the particular design decisions.

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  12. Good questions. I have another: Can morality/productivity/healthcare/interpersonal relationships be gamified via tech? Make positive behavior addictive, that’s the key.
    A friend showed me a blood preassure app & I had to beat him for the lowest number. I didn’t, so I went on a 50 mi bike ride. I’m not saying an app like that is the key (however if it were tied to my health ins. cost I may take it more seriously), infact, I thought it was hogwash – but it made me consider physical activity which ultimately is better for everyone.

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  13. Joy, engagement, pleasure, etc are important aspects of the human experience. As designers it’s our responsibility to consider this with every design decision we make and every product we bring to market. Of course we also need to consider the utilitarian aspects of what we build, but not everything has to err on the side of utility at the expense of pleasure. Otherwise we wouldn’t have things like Coca Cola, Jack Daniels, Disneyland, and Angry Birds. Where would we be if we didn’t have these things? More productive? More ethical? More peaceful? Or just more drab, boring, homogenous…?

    What I take away from your article is that as designers we need to constantly be struggling with this tension and as consumers we need to be aware of and intentional about our decisions, intentions, goals, and responsibilities (civic and personal) and be good at making our own decisions about the balance between pleasure and utility.

    Thanks for helping us keep this top of mind.

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  14. Jason,

    Thank you for bringing much necessary attention to this issue. No individual thinks fondly of anything that was once an addiction. Companies/services cheapen and denigrate themselves by instituting addiction-driven behaviors as opposed to cultivating genuine interest. This isn’t unlike the mainstream music industry wherein pop tracks are routinely played over and over on the radio, resulting in a familiarity and therefore an eventual preference. Then, they’re replaced by yet another track. There is no lasting benefit from these tracks, not necessarily unlike these services. But when we’ve recovered from tomorrow’s Zynga, we’ll see the damage and not the value added. What happened to creating services that people genuinely want to use because, well, they derive benefit from them?

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  15. Do you believe that consumers should be given the choices in their gaming entertainment? Zyngas can’t be compared in terms of the gaming services it provides with Amazon or eBay. Can rival social gaming services be set up to offer healthier entertainments? Do we not see here small scale similarities to the health problems in the food industry?

    What are your views?

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  16. Nicolò Wojewoda Monday, September 3, 2012

    Good points, Jason. And I love your tripartition into arts, interpersonal interaction, and discovery. My suggestion for the tech community, in response to your questions, is to be honest in identifying user needs: not asking whether or not the user will indeed use that particular product/service, but whether – in the grand scheme of things – it’ll actually become a valuable addition to their life that, as you wrote, takes away time from the technology itself and gives it to personal fulfillment in other areas instead.

    Side note: as an outsider, I’m quite frustrated by what many tech startups come up with nowadays. I just wish that the incredible talent in the tech world was spent on tackling the greater challenges of our species instead. You know, stuff that gets people out of poverty, builds stronger communities, cleans the environment, upholds human rights and dignity, advances science and exploration, and the like – big real current problems and opportunities.

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  17. I agree with the downside of the metrics game associated with the early days of platforms and startups. The popularity contest of social media in particular speaks to a cheap, quantity-over-quality attitude that I hope new outlets like App.net can address. I’m not sure I agree with the notion that moderation online equates with better quality of life. That’s not really our job to understand or influence. But bravo to the idea that addictive use of a platform is sick, even if investors think it’s swell.

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  18. jamiesondeanatoutlookdotcom Monday, September 3, 2012

    If you haven’t already, check out this TED video on what your designs say about what you value, and the concept of the ‘good life’ you are encouraging/perpetuating.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_deterding_what_your_designs_say_about_you.html

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    1. Awesome! I organized that TEDx.

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  19. Great post. I’m not addicted but dont try to ever take away my iPhone or else…..

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  20. Totally agree with what you’ve outlined here. Beyond what we “should” do as a product design community, I’d also argue that creating products whose function is to get users addicted is quickly becoming boring. It’s boring in comparison to creating something that is so useful and hits their need so well that they’re willing to open up their wallet for you. I think a lot of product people are afraid to take that challenge.

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    1. Agreed, Nadia.

      Adding rewards, or building a points system, is easy compared to understanding a target user-group and its hopes, fears, and pains.

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  21. Not sure if you ever saw WoWDetox.com — a site dedicated to people leaving their World of Warcraft addiction behind. Before they shut the site down the top story was from a father of a 5-year old who missed his son’s BDay party; he had a Raid to attend to with his WoW Guild.

    Question for you– are the majority of the extreme offenders here gaming companies? Or companies that are leaning on gamification outside of a core product experience (with maybe the addition of facebook…)?

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  22. Jameson Detweiler Monday, September 3, 2012

    I agree 100%. There is too much short term focus in Silicon Valley right now, and that is only perpetuating the creation of companies such as Zynga. Thankfully, I think we’re seeing that those companies fail. The issue with this type of addictive behavior is that people eventually become bored, and when they do, they move on to something else. And for Zynga, pretty much everyone has moved on, and they’re out of new users.

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  23. Well that jsut makes a ll kinds of sense dude. WOw.

    http://www.Anon-IP.tk

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  24. Dear Jason,
    Thanks for writing this refreshing breeze in a world that seems to focus on vanity metrics.
    The question of what kind of world are we building and what is the impact is with the technology is crucial and too little explored. But there’s hope: Couchsurfing, AirBnB and Kickstarter are perfect examples of services that are both adding value while having a mission.

    As of content side; I started building my company, Scoopinion, on the basis of fighting false metrics: as online media is becoming more and more distracting and outrageous, we built an aggregator that measures wether the stories are read thoroughly. Only well read articles are recommended to others: the idea is that longer articles provoke more thoughts and help understand the world better thus strengthening both individual thinking and democracy. We’re quite fresh still, and I’d appreciate any feedback of the concept or service itself.

    Here’s a piece of same discussion in journalism
    http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/08/metrics-metrics-everywhere-how-do-we-measure-the-impact-of-journalism/

    And here’s a quite good article on thinking behind Scoopinion
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bianca-bosker/scoopinion-personalized-magazine_b_1755997.html

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  25. Patrick Thompson Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    Great article thanks for sharing.

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  26. Erica Lee, P. Eng. Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    As an engineer who quit my job in mining to work for non-profit social entreprise, your message of wanting to do good (or at least minimal harm) through your profession resonates very strongly with me. I echo the comments that others have posted in saying that you have written an intelligent, compelling and honest article. Well done.

    Personally I believe we (as professionals yes but really as human beings) have a responsibility to society that goes beyond the corporate imperative to drive profit. As an alternative to the idea of government intervention being considered in the earlier comments, I propose personal intervention. Each professional can define a more accurate, more morally exact definition of success for yourself then making your choices accordingly. What do you really want to be a part of as you earn your daily bread? What do you want to leave behind when your career/life is over?

    I applaud your efforts to bring this conversation front and centre – so often in business/tech circles we focus on the how, and don’t necessarily think enough about the why. I don’t think the answers we reach matter nearly as much as the willingness and the courage to ask the questions. Thanks again.

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  27. Hey Jason—I love-hate this article…only because after reading it, I automatically felt superior to these people who were just wasting their time doing stupid things…I am smarter than that. I would never unwittingly become addicted. I’m informed. Or maybe not–I started thinking about my own behaviors as a consumer of technology and I got the feeling that I was, in fact, unknowingly addicted. Being someone that works in the tech industry, I have been inducted into this seemingly savvy subculture where being one of the first to read a trending article, see the newest memes, play a new mobile game, download a new app, is SO COOL, so it takes most of my free time during the work day to maintain that status by sharing, taking in or participating. Honestly, I don’t know what I did during my commute, 5-10 min before meeting, etc before I had these time wasters so easily available at my finger tips.
    So, I had this thought: most technology uses the agile technique so that they get their product out to market and then fix bugs along the way and the product evolves. I think people learn that way too—for example, we learned Bohr’s version of the atom when we were first introduced to chemistry in secondary school—but we evolve our understanding of things as we build a foundation capable of carrying more information. So this might seem a little bit irrelevant (I am not gifted with succinct writing abilities) but I think that the same thing is going on right now with technology on a different plane/perspective. Technologists have figured out this formula for engaging audience and retaining their attention, but they are ‘practicing’ and those ‘practice’ products are allowing us as the consumer to develop habits that might not be good in the long run but it is a good place to start and clearly, we aren’t anywhere near done with our technology lessons. At least, I don’t feel done—I think most of the people who read your piece are still open minded enough to continue to evolve.
    I remember taking geometry in high school and thinking, when am I ever going to need to know how to find the hypotenuse of a stupid triangle using a dumb theorem? Why learn something I am never going to use? Well, it wasn’t what we were learning; it was the thought process behind it that was important. I think that while some of the things we do are time wasters, they actually do develop thought processes or skills that may be important for functioning in today’s society. (I am thinking specifically of Words with Friends.)
    You wrote, “just as muscles grow stronger with use, and persistent practice makes any skill better, some of our most subtle mental abilities grow or wither with our choices.” I think that my ability to multitask has grown exponentially with technology and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I also don’t know if I agree that it has made me more distracted (though that could be that I started out with ADHD), and if anything, it has let me embrace my many interests and thoughts by creating more avenues to share ideas. Like Pinterest—I get the first thread for many ideas from this.

    So I guess…what I am trying to say is that you’re right Jason; there needs to be more Amazons, AirBnBs and less Zyngas, and I think that is happening and is destined to happen whether or not we have this discussion and create awareness around it. BUT, I am glad you made me think about it!

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  28. Interesting! I wonder what Jason thinks about previous generations of technological time wasters, such as tv, movies, autos, vcrs, radio, records, and so forth.

    I wonder how he feels his ideas fit in with McLuhan’s hot and cold media discussion in Understanding Media?

    Maybe topics for follow-on blog posts?

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  29. There is a simple law of evolution even in this industry; one that if its not useful/popular then it will not survive. The fact that something survives proves a value. As long as one is generating value, it does not matter what the purpose of the promoters are. And beside every organization has people with different agendas. No agenda is corrupt or polluted if it drives honest valuation of the product at the end of the day. So to philosophize purist ideas to drive reason to build products isn’t something I agree with.

    There is no further analysis required. The article is over thinking it !

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  30. We spent decades learning and developing tools for gathering information, next several decades we have to learn how to filter it.

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  31. I know I’m not a scientific sampling, but I can definitely relate. My day has become more and more interrupt driven, which means I’m able to get less done and get increasingly cranky when people interrupt me with something actually relevant.

    More recently I’ve started turning Tiwtter off and only checking in 2-3 times throughout the work day rather than enabling the continuous stream. It’s helping, but I am still crankier than I used to be.

    Now excuse me while I go tweet this article… :-)

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  32. Thank u for this much needed discussion and wake up call. I love technology and have a son @ MIT, but addiction is not what we need for a better life. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. This discussion should preceded deciding what we will make with what greater good for society will it accomplish. Thank U!

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  33. Thank you for this post challies.com lead me here and I will be using this as a discussion prompt for my technology course for teaching/learning with pre-service teachers— many of the comments are well thought out and so helpful.

    I believe that educators can benefit with the addictive nature of some websites, for children who need to be drilled on new concepts/skills, but otherwise we need to think carefully about when Web2.0 is an enhancement, motivator, or way for kids to produce what they have learned. I think teachers who use technology in a classroom should clearly state a purpose and how the web helps reinforce or extend the learning.

    My favorite uses you clearly articulated- are when it saves me TIME! I love pinterest for searching for ideas that others have found valuable! But I must think through and admit when I’m searching to fill a void and when I have a purpose. I’d like to use my leisure time to read– and I love blogs- but I also have to carefully keep myself reading BOOKS as well to be a relevant and well educated person. Balance is key! I think this is a wonderful resource to ponder that and will enjoy in the future explore commenters blogs and thoughts even more!

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  34. This is by far the best blog post I have read so far. You combine modesty with critical thinking. Excellent job.

    I agree with Naveed Lalani. I think it may be a positive step to focus on and combine addictive behaviour with learning / health & well-being apps.

    The applications we already have are useful to a certain extent but pitfall us into a massive distraction zone. There has also been research into internet addiction linking with depression.

    In my opinion there needs to be less focus on the social digital world and more emphasis on our well-being as a whole.

    How we will overcome this problem is anyone’s guess though.

    Maybe we need to learn moderation techniques?

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  35. This is a great post considering the times we’re currently going through. Everyone is writing about internet and screen addiction. As Jason alludes to, we need to flip our mindset. “We” being those who create the consumption vehicles that can drive compulsive behavior. Instead of focusing on pageviews and time spent online, there need to be tools and platforms that encourage healthier digital habits or moderation as Jason says. That’s what we’re working on at Skim.Me. We want users to consume digital content across their devices in a more productive, responsible and healthier experience.

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  36. Great points. It seems to all come down to motivation in my mind. Many people (some developers included) likely don’t really care about anything but their bottom line. Sad… selfish… and very short-sighted. I’ll be interested to see what traction your article spurs…

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  37. Jason,

    I am Inspired by your piece. The non-profit organization I work for facilitates a program that connects highly successful people in the Bay Area with people from the Tenderloin / SOMA neighborhoods in San Francisco. One of the major, interconnected problems in these concentrated pockets of poverty is hardcore drug and alcohol addiction.

    After 6 years, we have always seen that pairing people who seemingly have it all together with someone in an honest 12 Step program is something that helps the “successful” people see their own addictions and obsessions.

    Your article does a good job pointing out some of the high tech track marks. It reminds me a little of Don Draper’s “Why I Quit Tobacco” letter. Keep up the good work.

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  38. Jason,

    I am Inspired by your piece. The non-profit organization I work for facilitates a program that connects highly successful people in the Bay Area with people from the Tenderloin / SOMA neighborhoods in San Francisco. One of the major, interconnected problems in these concentrated pockets of poverty is hardcore drug and alcohol addiction.

    After 6 years, we have always seen that pairing people who seemingly have it all together with someone in an honest 12 Step program is something that helps the ”successful” people see their own addictions and obsessions.

    Your article does a good job pointing out some of the high tech track marks. Keep up the good work.

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  39. leave it to self-congratulatory silly valley denizens, having the world as their oyster, to turn it into a navel

    I’m pretty sure I’d prefer you all distracted & ditzy to “pensive”, emo, & self-indulgent

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  40. Every moment a bored disaffected teenager spends on Madden Football 2012, Diablo III, Fantasy Football, Farmville, or pimping themselves on webcam is a moment they’re not spending on some miscreance harming greater society or hard drugs. Compared to the 1980s, crime is way down. Teenage pregnancy is way down. With the economic indicators looking like things are about to go to hell even more than they already are, let’s continue to keep those teenagers engaged in cheap activities largely benign to the rest of us thank ye very much.

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    1. Someone who knows better Sunday, September 9, 2012

      >Compared to the 80′s crime is down

      Did you even LIVE through those times? I did, and I can assure you, crime is WORSE now than it was then.

      >Teenage Pregnancy is down

      Temporarily. Now, it’s headed back up. Seems abstinence only works as long as you hold out. Oh, and that dip you’re talking about occurred at the start of the 90′s. Wrong decade.

      > keep teens busy before the economy blows out

      Never mind. Seems you’d rather see them ignorant and self-absorbed, instead of engaged in the world.

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  41. What a masterpiece jason!

    Your article could be figuratively just a copy of our startup’s vision so I was soaking up each word of you literally like a sponge before I forwarded it immediately to my colleagues.

    A lot of people are at odds with all kind of computers and its build on services. They argue computers totally let us forget what our real-life is all about. In some way I do agree with them.
    But one thing is for certain though: as long as a computer (smartphone/app/you name it) is used for the right purpose in terms of a tool – just like you use your own car to get from a to b – it can definitely enrich our all lifes.

    cheers from germany

    Benni B.

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  42. Must read @BillDavidow in Atlantic / July ’12 on Exploiting the Neuroscience of Internet Addiction http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/07/exploiting-the-neuroscience-of-internet-addiction/259820/

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  43. Buyer beware also applies here. Individuals need to take ownership of way they choose to spend their time – children need to have guidance to learn how to manage their response to the marketing insanity. I find I am turned off by the constant demands to give up my time and experience to a corporate desire for more profit.

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