Canada’s public broadcaster has used the 10th anniversary of the iPhone as an impetus to take a deep dive into the distraction—even addiction—of the modern smartphone app. It’s published an entire half-hour episode of its popular Marketplace series on YouTube, and a feature piece on CBC News as well.
The TL;DR is that the modern smartphone app is addictive by design. One example provided is a popular technique called variable reinforcement. It involves three steps: (1) a trigger, like a notification on your phone, (2) an action, as in tapping on the notification to open the app and (3) the reward—a “like” or share of something you’ve previously posted. Because the reward itself isn’t predictable, the action of seeking the reward becomes compulsive.
For the purpose of this CBC investigation it does seem that “app” is rather narrowly defined as a smartphone portal to a messaging service or social media network. It also seems that teens are especially vulnerable to this addictive behaviour.
As a Generation Xer (Nirvana rules!) I myself am not a digital native, and therefore have no trouble putting my smartphone down and immersing myself in some other leisurely pursuit for extended periods of time. And though I’m also a childless monster I can’t help but wonder if using messaging apps is fundamentally any different for teenagers than tying up a landline phone for hours on end in those dark ages before smartphones, or even the Internet, existed.
Any parents care to weigh in on this…?
Link: CBC News