When habit-forming products become addictive

Excerpt from this article:

I recently observed a couple seated together at the corner table of a popular Colombian restaurant in New York. They weren’t on a date. I knew that because they were not even present for each other. Instead they were each gazing into their phones. Their devices threw a cold glow onto their faces, which didn’t look particularly happy or unhappy. Somewhere in the middle, I’d say.

Later that week I went to a movie at the AMC Village 7 on 3rd Avenue, where two things struck me: The amazing reclining seats, and the fact that AMC Theaters now feels it necessary to include “don’t post” along with the usual “don’t text or talk” part of the theater preroll. It reminded me of when, in one of the more emotionally heavy and somber exhibits of the 9/11 museum, two girls near me snapped selfies. Twice, because one of them didn’t like how she looked in the first one. I don’t know if it was because not being alive in 2001 makes the whole thing abstract history, or because the tribal validation Snapchat provides is too irresistible to delay.

Nir Eyal’s book, Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products, tells us some of the causes of these behaviors. In it, Eyal makes a point to separate “habit-forming” from “addicting.” The clearest difference I grokked from Eyal’s writing is this: If the product manipulates us into a compulsion that is said to be good for the our wellbeing, that’s called habit-forming. If it’s bad for our wellbeing, then it’s called an addiction.

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