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nireyal365 karma

I appreciate the question--and it’s a totally fair one to ask.

First, I wrote the book because I needed it. I was finding myself distracted throughout my day, especially during one of the most important moments in my day: my time with my daughter. And the thing that seemingly distracted me was--wait for it--technology. So I set out to solve my own problem.

Second, I had insights into the products that were leading me to become distracted. Hooked went deep into how psychology could be used to build engaging products and services. I understood this hidden psychology because I had spent years researching what makes products habit-forming.

Third, I wasn’t a fan of the fear-mongering narrative around tech. It seems there’s a new headline every day about tech “hijacking our brains” and “addicting” us all. That narrative isn’t true and isn’t helpful. While some tech does addict some people, the vast majority of us are not pathologically addicted. Most people aren’t addicted, they’re just distracted. Furthermore, telling people to give up their devices isn’t practical. We need these products for our livelihood and to stay connected with important people in our lives.

Thankfully, we can get the best of tech without letting it get the best of us. I wanted people to discover, as I did, that we’re much more powerful than we think. That the notion that we’re all addicted isn’t helpful and teaches learned helplessness instead of personal responsibility.

Trust me, though, I get the irony. And I hear about it in a good-natured way from my friends and family constantly. Guess it comes with the territory!

nireyal202 karma

Alright, embarassing admission time: I've had multiple, all-day Wiki rabbit hole sessions. I mean can you blame a guy? Just look at this list of "cognitive biases": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

To a guy like me, that's catnip, and I confess that I've spent many an hour reading about "the Ostrich effect" and "recency illusion."

When its not that, it's all things Back to the Future: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_the_Future

nireyal192 karma

I’m tempted to geek out on the distinction between “habits” and “routines” and why it’s so important to know the difference, but in order to answer more questions, I’ll come back to that topic later on.

As for a daily habit the average person can do, it would be to learn to identify our internal triggers with curiosity instead of contempt. So many of us beat ourselves up when we get distracted and think there’s something wrong with us (or blame the tech), but this only makes us feel worse and ironically leads to more distraction to escape discomfort. Instead, we can learn to identify the preceding emotion that leads us astray so we deal with them more healthfully.

For instance, we can use a “distraction tracker” to simply write down the emotion we felt when we got distracted. Were you feeling lonely, bored, or stressed, when you wandered over to Facebook for that half-hour? Were you anxious when you decided to go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole instead of writing your research paper? Putting the feeling down on paper can empower you--and more importantly, you can discover root causes. After you’ve done that, we can use tactics like the “10-minute rule” which says we can give into any temptation after just 10 minutes. Most of the time, you’ll get back to the task at hand after just a few minutes of reflecting on the emotion and the root cause of the discomfort you are seeking to escape with a distraction.

nireyal152 karma

I appreciate the question! And it’s a valuable one. I’ll use two examples, one for the “good” and one for the “bad.”

Good -- It’s one that brings users back without a lot of conscious thought. A good example would be FitBod. It’s a fitness app that helps people form an exercise habit in the gym. One thing they do is remove uncertainty and wasted time by telling you exactly what to do in the gym. There’s no dithering about what your work out might be today; you just fire it up, and it tells you what to do. It seems simple, but this is actually a powerful psychological lever that addresses a real need. That’s just one feature but it speaks to the “action” part of the model in a way that works well.

Bad -- I’d say any product that intentionally prays on addicts. I think it’s important to distinguish between “habits” and “addictions.” Addiction can be an unfortunate byproduct of a product designed to be engaging but for some industries, it’s their entire business. I’m not a fan of business models that knowingly addicts people to their products and then won’t do anything about it. The examples are obvious here -- tobacco, alcohol, and machine gambling are all examples of industries that would have trouble staying viable without addicts making up a disproportionate share of the revenue. That’s a problem, and from my point of view, it’s unethical.

nireyal138 karma

Haha. Yes, the irony abounds. But just to be fair: 1) I think Reddit's amazing 2) I actually set aside time to do this. What I mean is that I practiced what I preach: if I'm going to do an AMA, it means I'm doing it guilt-free with a block of time for it. So if I want to browse Facebook for a while, I schedule "social media time." The point isn't to give up all the things you enjoy—and c'mon, who doesn't love a good internet rabbit hole?—the point is to make deliberate, conscious choices as opposed to allowing those rabbit holes to pull you away from what you ought to be doing. We want to use these products on our schedules--not on the app makers.