Section Four - Technology Addiction
A story about being hooked (15 minutes)
Amy Whinehouse once sang:
"I don't ever wanna drink again. I just, ooh, I just need a friend."
She believed that addiction is the opposite of connection. Ironically, maybe it are our connected devices that erode our connections. In this section we will explore the topic of technology addiction.
Quick question: you can choose not to use your phone, but can you still choose not wanting to use your phone?
A recipe for addiction
So far, not so good. In section two and three we learned that the human values happiness and autonomy are threatened by some modern, digital technologies, especially if we are not aware about the methods of the attention merchant and the surveillance capitalist.
Our relation with technology all comes together in the most personal device the world has ever seen (our smartphone) and on that smartphone, in a select number of apps. We won’t state that these apps are addictive, but we do know that they are designed for addiction. They are all designed the same way. They are designed according to the hook model.
In the video below you will learn how this works (12 minutes).
Maybe you doubt if these apps are really that addictive. Well, maybe not for you, but for a lot of people they are. You only have to look at the average usage statistics. Check this video below, and remember this is a video from 2016… (2 minutes).
Okay, so our apps are designed for addiction and apparently it is working. What does this mean for our happiness and autonomy?
Our most popular apps are meant to be addictive. Many people are sensitive to this. A lot of people use their apps (on their smartphones) not because they want to but because the technology companies want them to do so. That is an infringement of our autonomy. On the other hand, you could also say that the smartphone has actually increased the autonomy.
Things are easier to arrange, it is easier to figure out where to go, keeping in touch is easier. However, the figures do not always indicate that. Children, for example, move in an ever-smaller circle around their home.
Quick assignment: What do you think? Do you think your smartphone has increased your autonomy? Your ability to make choices? And what about those addictive apps? You can discuss this in groups, with your friends, or in the bar (you can find more exercises in section six).
There is a lot of research that indicates that using addictive apps a lot makes you unhappy or even depressed. Comparing yourself to others makes you unhappy. The figures show an increase in suicides among young people. But at the same time, according to some studies, people are happier than ever.
A student told us: I use my phone 8 hours a day and I am very happy. So what do I do? Well, we don't know. Keep up the good work? Maybe he no longer knows what being happy means? Ultimately, the smartphone and the addictive apps have not been around long enough to determine the long-term impact. And in addition, it is, of course different for everyone personally.
The most important part of this section is that you understand how our popular apps are designed, so you can determine your position and assess new apps & technologies.
Quick assignment: What do you think? Do you think your smartphone has made you happier? Or the opposite? And what about those addictive apps? You can discuss this in groups, with your friends, or in the bar (you can find more exercises in section six).
Does it really work?
Okay, this is our narrative so far: there are these Big Tech Companies who need us to click and swipe and use surveillance technology as much as possible. That is why they create (addictive) technology that can have real negative consequences. After all, everytime we use these technologies, the Big Tech Companies better understand who we are, and they can sell that information.
But, what if, technology companies really do not understand us? What if EdTech does not work at all? What if the narrative above is created by the Big Tech companies? So, that advertiser will belief in it and will spend their money. What if Big Tech is a Big Lie?
There is growing evidence that supports this 'Big Lie theory.' Read more about in section six (additional materials).
Take aways from section 4:
- Our apps are designed for addiction;
- This design (the hook) is very, very successful;
- This can have a negative effect on our autonomy and our happiness, but we are not sure;
- However, knowing how this design works helps you determine your position and to assess other technologies
I want more... (and we understand)
Are you interested in this topic? Do you think we have failed you in this section? We understand that, which is why we have prepared a lot of links, texts, videos and exercises for you in section six, the additional materials.