Adam Alter

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Because I’ve read about smartphones and addictive technology before, this book wasn’t quite as impactful for me as others. However, there were a few takeaways and stats that hit the point home. The biggest thing it opened my eyes to is the addictive power of video games. When I tell people I gave up social media, many people (especially guys) seem to be not that impressed, but I think it’s because they’ve had a stronger connection to video games rather than social media. This book shed some light on that.


23% of people have an average daily smartphone use of over 4 hours, with the overall average at a little over 3 hours per day.

It’s said that 41% of adults has suffered from a behavioral addiction in the past twelve months. It’s defined as the person becomes unable to reliably predict when the behavior will occur, how long it will go on, when it will stop, or what other behaviors may become associated with the addictive behavior. As a consequence, other activities are given up or, if continued are no longer experienced as being enjoyable as they once were.

Average phone use has increased from 18 minutes in 2008 to 2 hours and 48 minutes in 2015.

Children notice when their parents are using smartphones too much. Even being distracted as a parent makes their child more likely to be distracted in the future.

Alter makes a strong case for context playing a HUGE role in addictions. He mentions that many soldiers were addicted to heroin in the 70’s. When they tried to fix the problem when they were still abroad it didn’t work, but almost everyone stopped when they came home. A similar story is told about a guy who was addicted to video games, enrolled at a treatment center, but returned to his old context and his habit began again. When he went back into treatment and moved to a different city, he was able to stop his habit.

Our brains respond significantly more to rewards that aren’t guaranteed vs things that are. When creating addictive technology, things that only reward some of the time are the most addictive.

The Zeigarnik Effect: incomplete experiences occupy our minds far more than completed ones.

Alter mentions that texting is very risk-averse. People can send just the right about of exclamation points or laughter in a text, while they have to give effort to show that accurately in person.

Some people have different connections to their social media addition. For example, someone might think that they won’t stay connected with people if they don’t have social media. Showing them how to be connected with people even without it is important to break their habit.

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