Articles

It’s not you. Phones are designed to be addicting.

August 14, 2019


but I’m not alone.
Over 2.5 billion people have smartphones now,
and a lot of them are having a hard time putting
them down.
There’s a new app that aims to curb phone
addiction.
Addiction is money.
Are we a nation of smartphone addicts?The
problem is, our devices are designed to keep
us engaged.
They’re intentionally addicting.
But if you understand the tricks that grab
your attention, you can learn to have a healthier
relationship with your phone.
I think we’re living inside of two billion
Truman Shows.
Where, you know, Truman Show, you wake up
and everything is sort of coordinated just
for you.
And you really don’t even realize it, but
it’s coordinating just to entertain you, or
just to engage you.
That’s Tristan Harris, he worked as Google’s
design ethicist, and now he runs a nonprofit
initiative called Time Well Spent, advocating
for awareness of how tech companies profit
off of users’ attention.
It’s not designed to help us, it’s just designed
to keep us hooked.
So I handed him my phone and asked him how
he’d fix it.
It starts with turning off all notifications,
except for when a real human is trying to
reach you.
When you get a call, a text, or a message,
it’s usually because another person wants
to communicate with you, but a lot of today’s
apps simulate the feeling of that kind of
social interaction, to get you to spend more
time on their platform.
If Facebook sends you a push notification
that a friend is interested in an event near
you, they’re essentially acting like a puppet
master, leveraging your desire for social
connections so that you use the app more.
But notifications didn’t always work like
this.
When push notifications were first introduced
for email on Blackberries in 2003, they were
actually seen as a way for you to check your
phone less.
You could easily see emails as they came in,
so you didn’t have to repeatedly open your
phone to refresh an inbox.
But today you can get notifications from any
app on your phone.
So, every time you check it, you get this
grab bag of notifications that can make you
feel a broad variety of emotions.
If it wasn’t for random, if it was predictably
bad or predictably good, then you would not
get addicted.
The predictability would take out the addictiveness.
And, it’s effective.
Slot machines make more money in the US than
baseball, movies, and theme parks combined
and they become addicting about 3-4 times
faster than other kinds of gambling.
Some apps even replicate the process of pulling
a slot machine lever with the “pull to refresh”
feature.
That’s a conscious design choice.
Those apps are usually capable of continuously
updating content, but the pull action provides
an addicting illusion of control over that
process.
In the future, we might see healthier ways
of delivering notifications.
Research shows that bundling notifications,
where phones deliver a batch of updates at
set times, reduces user stress.
Then, you have to grayscale your screen.
The easiest way to attract your eye’s attention
on a screen is through color.
Human eyes are sensitive to warm colors.
In eye-tracking tests like this one, they
gravitate particularly to bright red.
That’s why so many apps have redesigned their
icons to be brighter, bolder, and warmer over
the years.
It’s also why notification bubbles are red.
A little icon like this, or this, doesn’t
have the same impact on your attention as
this.
But you can neutralize that distracting effect
by selecting a greyscale color filter in your
phone’s accessibility settings.
When you make everything black and white,
your brain isn’t tricked into thinking that
this is any more important to you than this.
I mean, there’s a reason why slot machines
are bright and color and flashing lights and
ding ding ding ding ding.
They have the sensory input too, right.
And so, just noticing that if I take out the
color, it changes some of the addictiveness.
Finally, restrict your home screen to everyday
tools.
Make sure that your home screen, when you
unlock it, doesn’t have anything except for
the in-the-moment tools that help you live
your life.
I have Lyft, to get somewhere when I need
to get somewhere, Maps, Calendar.
None of these are apps that I can fall into
and then get sucked down some bottomless vortex
of stuff.
If you’re not sure what counts as a bottomless
vortex of stuff, it helps to filter out apps
that use infinite scrolling.
Unlike pagination, where users have to click
to load new content on another page, infinite
scrolling continuously loads new material
so there’s no built-in endpoint.
Video autoplay works in a similar way.
These interfaces create a frictionless experience,
but they also create a user’s sense of control
and make it harder to stop.
Research shows that people rely on visual
cues more than internal cues to stop consuming
something.
In a 2005 study, individuals who ate soup
out of a self-refilling bowl, ate 73% more
than those who ate out of a normal bowl filled
up by servers.
But those who ate from the self-refilling
bowl, didn’t feel any more satisfied.
So, a visual cue, like an endpoint, is better
at telling you the right time to stop than
your own sense of satisfaction.
And because so many apps don’t have an endpoint,
you have to build your home screen around
the eventuality of distraction.
We check our phones a lot.
Most of us drastically underestimate how often
we do so.
But technology might not always look this
way.
There are ideas for alternative interfaces
that give you functional choices and are more
transparent about how much time you’ll lose
with one action, versus another.
But it’s a really deep philosophical question:
what is genuinely worth your attention?
On an interruptive basis?
Do people even know how to answer that question?
It’s a really hard question, it’s not something
we think about.
But, for now, it’s a question that everybody
needs to start asking.
Thank you so much for watching, this has been
episode 1 of By Design, this is gonna be a
new series looking at different topics in
design, in technology, looking at how human
decisions on one end of creating something
affect people on the other end.

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97 Comments

  • Reply Keep Smiling July 22, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    Well I don't have anything to do with my life, I am lazy and bored without it

  • Reply Light Worm July 22, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    This video is gonna help me into my research 🙂

  • Reply Lt. Surok July 22, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    It’s addictive not addicting!

  • Reply Cierha rasasane 83 July 23, 2019 at 12:46 am

    I’m watching in iPad I’m addicted to my iPad I can’t help it my mom yells at me for it

  • Reply Your May July 23, 2019 at 3:48 am

    I'm just trying to help
    People, who have Honors, in settings we have "Screen management"
    There you can turn on gray screen or choose time when your phone will turn off

  • Reply Melisa July 23, 2019 at 10:24 am

    I purposefully don't spend more than 2 hours a week on social media such as Instagram and Facebook. There is no reason for me to spend more time on it than I need to.

  • Reply 賜龍怜音 July 23, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Much easier and permanent solution, just uninstall those fuckbook and instashit from your phone.

  • Reply Black Sheeps July 23, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    YouTube slowly leaves the room

  • Reply YellowGirlMC July 23, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    The person who uses there phone a couple minutes a day on average is watching this 😀

  • Reply Jun Jie Pang July 24, 2019 at 12:32 am

    Then what, we should all stop watching your videos? lel

  • Reply Ambas Family July 24, 2019 at 2:59 am

    v

  • Reply What am I? July 24, 2019 at 6:46 am

    Im only addicted to youtube

  • Reply gayrou July 24, 2019 at 10:06 am

    the guy looks like mark zuckerburg

  • Reply girish kumar July 24, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Just today I opened my phone 131 times and I spent in YouTube 3 hours

  • Reply bgtkv4 July 24, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    who else just switched their phone to grayscale and is disgusted on how bad it looks

  • Reply mischa sage July 24, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    i think the question of whats worth of our time has a very simple answer:if doing something makes you happy its worth your time.If you like playing a video game( for example) and it leaves you feeling happy its worth your time, but if for another example scrolling through instagram desperately searching for good posts leaves you feeling depressed its not worth it.

  • Reply FortniteDen July 25, 2019 at 12:26 am

    I need to STOP it too

  • Reply Ari that awkward girl July 25, 2019 at 3:40 am

    For some reason I don’t like social media… my parents got me my first phone in 5th grade (yes I know that’s young) and I was surrounded by friends and family that constantly used and loved Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other stuff. The only app I do like is YouTube and Netflix. So yea basically I like to waste my life watching people film and act vlogs, makeup tutorials and binge watch f.r.i.e.n.d.s and other shows and movies on netflix.

  • Reply البلوشي فيصل July 25, 2019 at 3:50 am

    Said a guy in the internet

  • Reply marsz July 25, 2019 at 4:01 am

    Watched this on a 2 hour straight internet binge

  • Reply Minh Châu Nguyễn July 25, 2019 at 4:38 am

    Just like local drug dealer say DO YOU OK

  • Reply Michael Edward July 25, 2019 at 7:50 am

    no wonder why communism use red color.

  • Reply Raja vinn July 25, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Who's on his/her phone

  • Reply Anonymous Eclipse July 25, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    This channel is gonna make me addicted to my phone… the video didn’t work😅

  • Reply AuteYT July 25, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    If you think about that, everything is designed to be addicting…

  • Reply Nicko Mode July 25, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    In other important news, the water is wet

  • Reply user1134。 July 26, 2019 at 2:43 am

    i’m on my ipad so it’s okay

  • Reply The Phantom July 26, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    How ironic

  • Reply Moon July 27, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    I dont use my phone. I use my laptop way too much…

  • Reply zathary July 27, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Vox your thumbnails are designed to be addicting

  • Reply iksavau July 27, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    it's not you, crystal meth is designed to be addicting

  • Reply vinod patil July 28, 2019 at 6:46 am

    Have turned all my notifications off after watching this video.

    The infinite scrolling & pull down to refresh is actually an issue; I have felt several times that why am I even scrolling on & on, on apps like twitter, newsinshort etc. & even sense that I should stop; however the urge to continue sometimes is very strong. Even if, I somehow manage to close the app; the thumb will, almost like an auto/ default setting, opens the same app. Hence, I have also now switched the app(most frequently used) shortcut location on my phone.

    Some other tactics I use to not over use my phone are,

    1) I generally keep my phone on silent mode. Too many span Gmail, sms notifications or any other app whose notifications are too imp to turn them off. Going on silent mode, is kind of a trade off. I don't lose the notification but avoid getting frequently distracted as well
    2) Keep the phone hidden from your sight, esp at work. I keep it right behind my laptop screen, with a USB cord attached for charging it. This helped a lot to focus on work.
    3) Going gray scale, wasn't exactly ideal. We use such expensive phones & no colour!!! Instead, the idea of uncluttering your home screen makes a lot more sense.

    If any other useful tips that have worked for you, please do suggest. I am contemplating using classic feature phones like Nokia 6600, esp during work hours.

  • Reply TheSavageTeddy July 28, 2019 at 11:33 am

    next up:

    its not you. Vox videos are designed to be addictive.

  • Reply Wayward Sister July 28, 2019 at 11:41 am

    1:11 I turned of all human-notifictions… oops

  • Reply Ratha Kim July 28, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    Im addicted to phone.But,…..

    I love it.

  • Reply We Are Not Silent July 29, 2019 at 2:21 am

    tristan's side profile was awkward to watch.

  • Reply Krae Malone OFFICIAL July 29, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Youtube

  • Reply thanosios purplesiguy July 29, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Im addicted to living.

  • Reply Annabelle Rankin July 30, 2019 at 5:04 am

    The correct word (even for Yanks!) is 'addictive' (not addicting).

  • Reply Bendegúz Dörnyei July 30, 2019 at 7:14 am

    Amazing video! 🙂

  • Reply im jimin not jimout July 30, 2019 at 11:30 am

    And VLive is made for Kpop lovers to watch their live-streams 24/7..

  • Reply Big Boss July 30, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    im not addicted to my phone.

  • Reply Colin MacRury July 31, 2019 at 1:14 am

    Only came on this to correct grammar of video title… *addictive

  • Reply AEGEUS ِ July 31, 2019 at 5:57 am

    I’m still using flip phone

  • Reply ツNiky Neko July 31, 2019 at 8:57 am

    I’ll come back in a week
    Wish me luck

  • Reply Malki sehgal August 1, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    Just a small Query:
    I like the method of gray scaling but I use Android…..can someone tell an alternative…

  • Reply wildan rosyada August 1, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Thats why apple is berter than android,

  • Reply Nebulaburstplayz August 1, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    But im not addicted ٩(๑❛ᴗ❛๑)۶

  • Reply John Ortiz August 1, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    🤯

  • Reply Yo Queen August 1, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    I only text my friends through Instagram so I can’t really turn off notifications for that.

  • Reply SAurav August 2, 2019 at 2:07 am

    I did everything in my phone black. I spent very less time on phone.

  • Reply Bts Is trash August 2, 2019 at 2:08 am

    So. If i just turn off notifications? Bruh tried that for 3 days but i still look at my phone

  • Reply Thursday Gonzalez August 2, 2019 at 6:50 am

    I got so many notifications from webtoons, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. That it overwhelmed me so much that it felt like a job that I had to check it out, so I turned off all my notifications and I feel way better.

  • Reply Moises Lopez Mendoza August 2, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    The irony here

  • Reply YeetYeet Cat August 2, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    Me: Uses dark mode and watches Netflix at night

  • Reply julie August 3, 2019 at 3:03 am

    When you realize you’re addicted to using your phone so you watch a video on your phone and prolong the time spent on your phone

  • Reply JJ Tong August 3, 2019 at 5:11 am

    I was turning off notifications going down rhe list. It felt really weird

  • Reply Ava Nielson August 3, 2019 at 8:00 am

    I don’t know why I’m watching this video but I can’t stop

  • Reply Telling the Truth August 3, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    Just delete your social media apps. I've done it for 6mos.I'm good. I get to work out every day and spend quality time with my family and friends. ❤️❤️❤️

  • Reply Jittu Varghese August 4, 2019 at 4:12 am

    Great Stuff !

  • Reply Terry Chia August 4, 2019 at 7:40 am

    I need Thanos.

  • Reply Julian Pbt August 4, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    The comment section is unendless… get it?

  • Reply Butts Carlton August 5, 2019 at 5:56 am

    old video but I think you meant "addictive"

  • Reply Simon Rai August 5, 2019 at 9:18 am

    everyone needs to see this

  • Reply Natalie C. August 5, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Can you make a video about how to not get addicted to laptops? I've never been addicted to my phone because I only use my laptop most of the time. I've gotten emulators and extensions to use applications only designed for phones and I'm constantly procrastinating because I'm on my laptop all the time.

  • Reply Nicholas George August 5, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Watching this on My Smartphone 😴😂

  • Reply JakeTheAnalytical August 5, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Vox is good when they aren't shoving their political opinions down your throat.

  • Reply HappyNerd55 August 5, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Im addicted to people talking about addiction

  • Reply Santosh P.S.S. August 5, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    Grayscale is life saver.

  • Reply Ban Y E E T os August 5, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    who else gets ticked off when the same videos pop up even when you refresh

  • Reply 100 Subscribers With No Videos August 6, 2019 at 1:00 am

    Self-refilling soup bowl? Sign me up.

  • Reply Vivek kumar August 6, 2019 at 3:31 am

    This was a freakin eye opener

  • Reply Alan August 6, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    The intro music till the Title card sounds so like Mission Impossible…ish. The 1996 one.

  • Reply Adhikary Kishan August 7, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Irony is that we all are watching it on mobile phone.

  • Reply Lora 100 August 7, 2019 at 1:49 am

    I made everything red and I don’t wan to go back. I might have defeated the purpose.

  • Reply Raùl Muñoz August 8, 2019 at 1:58 am

    Nah I use it cuz I really dont have anything else to do

  • Reply Batjokes Trash August 8, 2019 at 9:25 am

    I'm doing everything right and I haven't even tried! Black and white are my favorite colors so I had them everywhere. I keep my apps in small folders so notifications don't bother me at all and i'm less tempted to click apps. All my app notifications are off and nothings on my home screen. That must be why i'm never on my phone… 🙂 The only thing I go on my phone for is you tube or music or rarely to text somebody. I actually now understand why people are addicted.

  • Reply Inan Yigit August 8, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    I can never comprehend how someone can ever get addicted to slot machines

  • Reply J D August 8, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Somebody should tell Duo his sadness is predictable at this point lol

  • Reply Samantha Winton August 8, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    Y’all realize that there’s a thing called downtime in settings. 😂

  • Reply MalvinNathaniel August 8, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I applied 2 steps, the 1st and the 3rd since the 2nd option isn't available in my phone. Hope this works.

  • Reply SINGH August 8, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    Sort of irony with this video.

  • Reply Itiel Dos Santos August 8, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    Great content

  • Reply Tiffany August 9, 2019 at 2:45 am

    I would always be on my phone and I noticed that social media was ruining my life so I deleted everything except YouTube and I’ve felt better ever since.

  • Reply Gym's Server August 9, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    I downloaded tik tok as a joke, but now I'm addicted to it. Help me.

  • Reply sasha fjnsjcjndnxnnsnnsnnrnnndndnnx August 9, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    Bruh I don't have a lot social media and I still spend like three hours on my phone

  • Reply Shree August 9, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    Watching this in greyscale. It's weird

  • Reply ggmxz August 9, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Haha jokes on you.

    I'm using a tablet

  • Reply Avik Nayak August 10, 2019 at 6:14 am

    This is why YouTube is red…..🤔😫

  • Reply Dany bm August 11, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    As a designer: yes, we take ADVANTAGE of that psychology, but we eventually just use what the public gives you. It’s designed to help you make you things insanely easy for you.

  • Reply Jellyroll Jellyjinks August 11, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    I turned on grayscale and it worked instant

  • Reply Lucas Hunter M August 11, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Gives us a video to not get addicted to our electronics but how would we watch this

  • Reply mindsauce August 12, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    You kept on scrolling didn't you? Welcome to the bottomless vortex of stuff 😉

  • Reply this can be anyone August 12, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    And it's 2:24 right now good job VOX 👏

  • Reply Zahid August 13, 2019 at 2:26 am

    I don't need any of these. I've got something called self control and, if mastered, can do wonders!

  • Reply Lumberjack king the great August 13, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    I just watch YouTube

  • Reply Karan Acharya August 14, 2019 at 6:27 am

    Embrace the philosophy of Digital Minimalism in this Attention Economy to save yourself.

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