I think most people already know smartphones and mobile tech can be addictive and not think much of it because it’s not going to happen to them. A phone is a phone, (of course we’re talking smart phones here), and it’s very useful and it’s worth the risk.
This is what I thought, but I’m listening to this book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked and it’s making me think twice about it.
The part of the book that worried me was the use of cocaine in the past. Some doctor was looking for new drugs and he tried chewing on a coca leaf. He wasn’t the first to try this by far, but apparently his paper on it sparked the medical use of it. People were using it all over the place. Even Sigmund Freud who is usually remembered as this infallible individual fell in love with the drug. The book said he used it so much it was destroying his life and he could barely take his dose because his nostrils were ravaged by it causing him chronic pain, and he treated the pain by painting a water/cocaine solution onto his nostrils!
In today's world we know the dangers of drugs and in some countries it’s illegal in other countries it is not, but in no country do parents give it to their kids to make them happy.
Why do I mention kids? Because the addictive and destructive nature of cocaine is being seen in the variety of things we can do with our mobile devices and we give them to our kids as soon as they can hold them, maybe sooner!
Obviously there are differences between cocaine and mobile games, but the scary thing is the industry behind the mobile games. I think Cocaine is as addictive as it is going to get, I don’t really know how much more addictive people can make it, but with addictive technology there are millions of people spending every waking hour trying to make their app more addictive than the last. To have an app that goes viral is the dream of many. Who wasn't jealous of the creator of Flappy Bird who seemed to strike it rich overnight with a very basic low budget game.
And obviously there is more to addiction than the drug or the app. As you can see in countries like Portugal which has made all drugs legal to combat their war on drugs so they can open up new types of treatment centres. But I just want to leave you to think about this for a bit.
When we pick up our mobile device randomly through the day or when we give our children mobile devices to pass the time, are we on our way to becoming Sigmund Freud painting our nostrils with cocaine to sooth the pain caused by painting his nostrils with cocaine?
This comes back to our brains being wired for the promise of reward more so than the reward itself as I pointed out in ‘You’re not going to believe this about bliss’. But the example there was a study with rats frying their feet due to a probe in their brain. Now we’re talking about one of the smartest people to ever live, whose area of expertise was human behaviour being susceptible to this. What chance do we have of being able to live alongside this without some controls or some rules or at least a better understanding of what is happening.
So, think about it. I’ll write about it more in the coming weeks. In the meantime if you want to get a sense of how many minutes or hours a day you’re looking at your smartphone you can use an app called ‘Moment’ by Kevin Holesh, (NOT Moments by Facebook, don’t download that one).