And we don’t mean cybersecurity kind of hack – we mean your brain. Believe it or not – smartphone developers are doing it to you all the time.
Think of your smartphone as a game at the casino – every time you hear the ping – you are super eager to see what you’ve got. It’s addictive and you don’t need to pay to pull the lever. Smartphone developers know this and they’ve designed software to excite your rewards centre.
For example, you don’t necessarily get every reaction notification on your recent Facebook post, instead, Facebook sometimes bundles them all up and sends you one notification. It feels like a little bit of a rush, even without value and it keeps you coming back for more.
It’s all about the kind of rewards that keep you coming back for more – you keep checking your smartphone because there might be 10 more likes on your Instagram post from yesterday. Whatever your poison – chances are you’re checking your smartphone to see if it’s there. And if it’s not you’ll just keep on checking.
Your reward centre isn’t the only thing your smartphone is tickling. When you upload a picture with friends Facebook encourages you to tag others – it makes you feel connected and when you follow through it draws them in as well. Pokemon Go keeps people playing by rewarding them for 7-day streaks and for making friends.
The only thing left to ask yourself is “why?”. If you’re not gambling away your money – then what are they getting from it? The answer is you – the more you use their applications the more data they gather and the more they can charge for advertising or in-app purchases (think of Snapchat stickers). It’s like the old saying goes – if you’re not paying then you’re the product.
We’re not suggesting you go cold turkey on your social media but it’s good to recognize what value you are getting from each application on your smartphone. Try deleting one for a day a week and see if you get the itch to check it – if you do work out how it can positively affect your habit.
If diagnose yourself as a smartphone addict here are 5 things you can start to break your addiction:
- First, start by saying “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” – this reminds you that you don’t want to do it instead of being unable
- Try to make your phone inaccessible – leave it in a room to charge while you’re in another
- Set a stopping rule. Try limiting yourself to 30 minutes on Instagram for example.
- Replace your bad habits with healthy habits – try adult colouring in or picking up a book
- Brace yourself for pushback – your brain doesn’t like pushback
And it’s always important to forgive yourself for relapsing – stick to the above and your habit should be kicked soon enough and maybe you’ll remember the beauty of conversation or a good book.