Anyone who thinks for a few minutes about social media knows this simple truth:
Addiction is not an accident: it is a strategy. In the world of app economics, addiction is what brings in the money. Whether it’s by trapping your attention and then selling it to advertisers or by trapping your attention and manipulating you to make a one-off or subscription-based payment, the basic idea is the same: catch that attention and then monetise it.
It’s clear that Facebook, Twitter and even lately LinkedIn, let alone tools like Tumblr or Pinterest, have a vested interest in keeping all of us looking at their app/website for as long as possible. The tools are specifically designed to be addictive. They may call it something else, like “connecting” or staying informed, but at the core, they are all in a never-ending battle for our attention, to the detriment of anything and everything else.
Now, I’m not one who wants us all to simply throw up our hands and say “Facebook, you should try and not be addictive because people can’t stop themselves”. I do believe we need to all be responsible for how we spend our own time and attention, we shouldn’t outsource that to an app either.
On the other hand, many of these same tech companies go way above and beyond to show themselves to be paragons of progressive politics and “social responsibility”, mostly because they don’t want to deal with the backlash. But hey, if you really want to be socially responsible, take some responsibility for how addictive you’ve made your own tools, and how that may be contributing to some problems for people.
I predict they won’t do this. Instead, they’ll add another in-app feature to offer help for addiction. Almost like having an AA meeting at the bar.