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article imageOp-Ed: Social media apps designed to addict users? Yes!

By Paul Wallis     Jul 5, 2018 in Internet
Sydney - Behavioral addiction is a well-known expression, but it’s usually about habituated natural behaviors, OCD, etc. Now, it’s about apps, and the value of habitual use of social media. It’s not a pretty picture.
According to the guy who invented infinite scrolling, Aza Raskin, app engineering is designed to make usage addictive. This includes the mystic ability to use phones much longer than necessary, adding to bandwidth costs, and of course, reinforcing the habituated usage.
Every app has some sort of use which requires a certain amount of time and attention. Add enough apps, and your attention can easily be largely switched to your phone, not the world around you. This sort of explains the ability of phone junkies to get run over, bump in to people, and all the other folklore of phones being smarter than people.
Social media apps take this process a step further, in to people’s lives and relationships. Social media is the medium of choice for most people to stay in touch, have fights, and live on screen. So – add addiction, and you have a potentially deadly social problem.
Everybody is now connected, as the old expression goes. Whether that’s good or bad is the debatable point. Behavioral addiction usually isn’t good, even if it seems harmless. After all - Is something which eats up hours of your life good or bad? You really do need to know.
Therefore – Connection + addiction = Compulsion? Maybe, maybe not. Practical communication, the quickest and easiest way, makes sense. But how much is habituated usage, and how much is actually necessary? Most people would say, listening to the interminable, banal conversations of people on phones, that most of it isn’t.
Is Your Social Media Behavior Doing You Any Damage?
Try this quick, reassuringly unscientific quiz:
How much of your social media usage is absolutely must-do?
Is your usage a natural version of mixing with friends, or a “Fear of Missing Out” thing where you have to be up to date with someone’s latest zit, or something equally fascinating?
How productive is your social media usage, personally or otherwise?
Do you do actual profitable or useful business, or just keep the internet busy?
What are the negatives of your social media apps - Clashes with people, wasted time, costs, etc?
OCD and App Addiction – Not the same, but…?
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is a really tough psychological issue which can do people real damage. App addiction is a bit different, but there are some disturbing similarities. The word “obsessive”, in particular, can apply to some types of social media usage.
This does NOT mean that endless selfies are a sort of psychological fetish crime, despite some people. Even posting hundreds of pictures of yourself in a bikini isn’t OCD; it’s more a sort of mating call and self-promotion, which in this society, means you’re a genius. Unless you’re actually glued to your phone for irrational periods of time and unable to function without it, you’re not nuts, just annoying.
Exactly where you draw the line, however, isn’t at all clear. There may well be some sort of major disorder in the mix, but CAN you say, “This is wrong”, and at what point?
Commercial Exploitation And Development
The commercial values of app addiction are predictable, and fit the wonderful, manipulative, shoddy, crap festival we call online society very well. You could call bots obsessive behavior, too.
Online bullying is apparently addictive, too, and everyone uses exactly the same language when bullying? There’s an app for that? You can bet on it. Addicted to bullying? Why not?
Social chatbots are nothing new, either. They’ve been around for years, in various degrees of substandard inadequacy. Arguably, you could have a social bot talking Valley Girl babble and nobody would know the difference, like, you know….
The problem is that social anything, online, is now pretty unavoidable. It’s not just wasting people’s time and lives, it’s wasting other people’s time and lives. Maybe someone makes money out of it, but everyone loses time, attention span, and, perhaps, behavioral choices. That has to be addressed. Never mind the morality, what about the people?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about social media apps, OCD, Obsessive compulsive disorder, app usage online, addictive social media apps
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