Companies spend millions to keep you addicted to their apps, here’s how to fight back

In 2014 I had a realization. I was on Facebook all the time, even though I hated it.

Facebook was brand new when I was a freshman in college, and I loved it.

Over the years I kept logging on out of habit even though I enjoyed it less and less. After some reflection, I decided to delete my account and haven’t looked back. If you ever find yourself saying "I spend too much time on my phone" or "I need to cut back on my social media use" you are not alone.

The reason is that the deck is stacked against us, heavily.

The business model of any free app depends on amount of time on the app and how many people use it.

That means if they want to make money, their interest is to keep people using something more and more. The easiest, proven and reliable way to do this is to use hack human psychology using red alerts, sounds and notifications.

Silicon Valley has taken a page form another industry that makes more when you stay longer, Casinos.  

Many of the engineers who had built slot machines have ended up working for these companies to keep people on their apps longer and longer.

The process exploited is our reward system. This is an evolutionary process where our brains get us to do something in order to survive by rewarding us with pleasure via dopamine release. For example, eating keeps us alive, so when you eat a meal, you get flooded with the pleasure chemical dopamine.

Companies have figured out how to mimic our basic programming to give us a reward for using their apps. The reward is likes and alerts and comments which make us feel good, which we crave more and more and keep us coming back. This creates a habit loop where we get exploited

We continually log in and pull that digital slot lever hoping for a reward.

You want to start by remembering that you are one person going against the resources of some of the most powerful companies in the world. The first thing to remember is to not beat yourself up about it. You have something tapping into your core mental programming, so of course it’s going to be tough.

Here are 3 simple things you can do to interrupt the pattern and fight back.

Kill Your alerts

Having your alerts on ensures you are going to be distracted all the time and let others control your time.

This is a topic that makes me feel like the old man yelling at the clouds. The cost/benefit of having notifications enabled is abysmal. You would be shocked how much better you feel and how much more you get done after killing them. I still check my phone and email more than I would like sometimes, but it’s on my own schedule, I hate the idea of someone trying to interrupt me.

Make it harder to be distracted

Everyone has their culprits that take away the most focus, one of the simplest, but kind of drastic things you can do is delete distracting apps from your phone. If you make it more difficult to be distracted, it wont have the same appeal and makes you be more mindful about what you are doing.

Removing your biggest time wasting apps from your phone, you can access via the browser but you that extra few seconds might make you more aware of the pattern.

If you want to go all out, you can actually hide the browser on your phone, you can always add it back but this is an extreme way to intervene on your distractions.

Make it less appealing

Have you ever noticed that every alert is the color red? That’s by design, red is associated with urgency so we are more likely to act on it.

If you are struggling, putting your phone on grayscale is a surefire way to make it less appealing. You can always change it back, but it will make you less likely to scroll mindlessly as it won’t look as nice.

If this is something you have been struggling with, I offer a 60 minute training called “Conquering Digital Distractions“ You can click the link to book a call in the top right of this page.