The New York Times’s Claudia Dreifus talks with social psychologist Adam Alter, author of the new book, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked:”
In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones….
[The definition of addiction is] something you enjoy doing in the short term, that undermines your well-being in the long term — but that you do compulsively anyway.
We’re biologically prone to getting hooked on these sorts of experiences. If you put someone in front of a slot machine, their brain will look qualitatively the same as when they take heroin. If you’re someone who compulsively plays video games — not everyone, but people who are addicted to a particular game — the minute you load up your computer, your brain will look like that of a substance abuser.
We’ve built our lives around screens. Out-of-control screen time is more like an eating disorder than an addiction to alcohol or cigarettes. You can give up alcohol and cigarettes.