How to De-Addictify Your Technology

Your devices are made to addict you. Literally. But you can reduce their addictive seductions.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #445

I was in a restaurant the other day and saw the most wonderful family! A mother and two children. Watching them almost brought tears to my eyes. The mother was smiling and laughing, nodding, and making all kinds of giggly fun noises. It was adorable!!! 

Eventually, mommy closed Facebook and started paying attention to the kids. Sadly by that time, they had already internalized that mommy loved her smartphone more than them. Once upon a time, that would have meant they would spend thousands of dollars of therapy in their 20s to overcome their resentment and develop the ability to relate to another human being. Given current trends, however, they’ll still be living at home in their 20s, so mommy will have to spend all that money on their therapy. So ha, ha! The joke’s on her.

And on us, too. Because we’re addicted to our devices.

When you’re addicted, you can’t stop doing something. You are drawn to your addiction to cope. You use it to distract you from your thoughts. You use it to fill your free time. It controls your psyche. It’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning, before you roll over and scratch your shmoopie behind the ears. When you’re with your friends, laughing and smiling, you secretly have the urge to run to the bathroom, duck into a stall, and check your timeline, your instagram, and your instant messages. 

Technology Is Made to Addict You

In times long past, technology was created to help you solve problems or be more productive. In some of the business-to-business markets, it’s still being developed to solve problems. But when it comes to consumer technology, the game has changed. Silicon Valley, has figured out that the way to fast money is to addict you to your technology with things that cause dopamine hits. Then you buy more apps, respond to more ads, and give social media companies deeper and deeper information about you. You get lots of lovely pictures you might be interested in, and news stories that confirm your pre-existing biases. And what to they get? Oh, not much. Just a complete psychological profile of you that can be used to manipulate your political opinions, your feelings, and your actions. 

Don’t believe me? I’m not the only one interested in world domination, I’m just the one who’s joking about it. Check out getitdoneguy.com/manipulation for a story on how artificial intelligence plus social media targeted marketing can be used to manipulate your political opinions, all by putting articles in front of you that hit the words and ideas that are already know to get your interest.

So how do we break the addiction? It’s not easy.

Reclaim Your Words!

First, reclaim your words. “Like” used to mean that you felt actual affection for a person, place, or thing. Now, it means you’re registering a mild positive feeling when you look at something, which then allows marketers and political operatives to manipulate you. And since clicking the “Like” button releases dopamine, we like to click it. Yes, we like the “like” button.

“Friends” were people who were there for you. People who had your back. People you spent time with. Now, “friends” are database entries that reveal a lot about you via your social graph. So Facebook and LinkedIn really, really, really want you to identify friends friends friends friends friends. Because all those database entries give them valuable information about you and your psychographics.

And “Sharing” was when you had something and wanted to give someone else the chance to enjoy it. In the olden days, you would have to pay me to look at your vacation pictures. Now, we’re Instagram database connections. So you can spew your pictures forth in my timeline. That’s not sharing. That’s exhibitionism. “Look at me!! See my vacation! Read my status update! Be amazed at the brilliant article I found!!!” It has no relationship to the old notion of sharing at all. 

But your brain isn’t that good at telling the difference between the new and the old. By hijacking the actual words of friendship and emotion, your brain begins to respond to your online experience as if all that actually liking, friends, and sharing. And what does it get you? Dopamine, dopamine, dopamine. That means addiction. YAY!!!!

So start breaking the addiction word by word. When you see a “Like” button on social media, read it as “Click here for addiction.” When you see the word “Friend,” read it as “monetized database connection.” And when you see the word “share,” read it as “spew.” 


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.