Irresistible | Adam Alter

Summary of: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked
By: Adam Alter


Enter the world of irresistible technology and discover the rising addiction to phones, video games, and other devices in Adam Alter’s ‘Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked’. This book summary gives you a sneak peek into the alarming relationship that people have with their smartphones and unveils the science behind addiction, the consequences of technology on our mental and physical health, and how our constant need for stimulation hinders our productivity. Delve into the book’s various insights and learn about the impact of technology on children, methods to overcome technology addiction, and how substituting our digital habits with healthier alternatives can make a positive difference in our lives.

Modern Addictions

The summary explores the modern addiction that phones and video games impose on people. It takes a closer look at the app ‘Moment’ and how it helps users determine the amount of time they spend on their phones daily. The addictive nature of video games is also discussed, with World of Warcraft as a major example. The summary ends by mentioning the creation of treatment centers like ReStart to combat such addictions and a promise to explore the science behind addiction.

Addiction and Context

Addiction is often context-dependent, as situations and living conditions can mitigate or trigger addictive behaviors. For instance, during the Vietnam War, US soldiers were introduced to an extremely pure form of heroin leading to widespread addiction. However, upon their return to the United States, they were less likely to relapse, suggesting that context plays a significant role in addictive behavior. Similarly, psychologist James Olds discovered that all animals, including humans, can become addicted under the right conditions, as addictive substances stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers. This understanding is relevant even for modern times, as technology can also trigger addictive behaviors by simulating our pleasure centers. Ultimately, addiction is less about morality than circumstances and conditions, requiring a contextual-based approach to effectively combat its effects.

Behavioral Addictions

Recent research shows that behaviors, including online activities, can stimulate the brain in the same way drugs do, releasing neurotransmitter dopamine for pleasure. However, the pleasure gradually decreases, leading to addiction and associated health problems like sleeplessness. Cambridge University’s neuroscientist, Claire Gillian, reports that while the less intense nature of behavioral addictions makes them easier to overcome than drug addictions, it is crucial to kick behavioral addiction since technology can cause sleep deprivation. Melatonin normally produced by the body for sleep is prevented by blue light from screens, leading to heart disease, depression, poor immune system, and other health issues.

Boost Your Productivity: Check Emails Less Frequently

Are you constantly checking your emails and responding quickly to every new message? This approach may actually be counterproductive. Studies show that responding to emails immediately leads to decreased concentration and lower-quality work. Furthermore, answering emails provides a rewarding feeling that can become addictive, leading people to focus on insignificant tasks. Instead, disable email notifications and set infrequent times to check your inbox. Psychologists found that after office workers were forbidden from checking their emails for several days, they communicated face-to-face more frequently, took more breaks, and produced more high-quality work. By checking your emails less frequently, you can improve your productivity and reduce stress levels.

The Science of Addiction

Humans and animals have a primal desire for positive feedback, and rewards that are unpredictable become even more addictive. That’s why gambling can be so alluring. Social media platforms have also leveraged this addictive feedback system with their “like” buttons. Every time a post is uploaded, it’s a gamble with potentially high stakes, triggering a dopamine rush that fuels addiction. This is why social media platforms feature these feedback buttons, including LinkedIn and YouTube.

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