iPhones Aren’t Addictive, They’re Just Useful

| Devil's Advocate

Page 2 – Just Because It’s Really Useful Doesn’t Mean It’s Bad

If I told you in 1990 that I could give you the power to know basically the sum total of all human knowledge limited only by you having to overcome your own laziness to ask about it; to be able to navigate anywhere freely; to capture and share any moment in time with anyone in the world; to be able to instantly converse with any of your friends or family anywhere in the world; to be able to share your thoughts and broadcast them to the entirety of the world—you would have thought I was overselling a new god-like superhero for a Marvel comic.

Yet the iPhone bestows these powers and more to everyone. The iPhone makes the Star Trek communicator look like an ancient and unfamiliar past. To not make constant use of these amazing powers to augment and enhance the human condition is not avoiding addiction or showing restraint, but an exercise in extreme ludditism.

The magical mesmerizing iPhoneConvergence

Much of this supposed addiction to the phone can really be explained by the the movement of several other supposed ‘addictions’ to the phone itself. People now surf the internet, watch TV and play video games all in one convenient location (things all decried to be ‘addictive’ by one nanny group or another at one time or another).

If you you used to spend 1 hour doing each of those three things on separate devices, and now do those separate things for 3 hours on a single device, does that somehow represent addiction, or is it just more convenient? In fact, an argument can be made that by allowing you to listen to music and surf the internet and play video games, simultaneously multitasking, on the phone, that for many people it may reduce overall time spent on those very same tasks.

When we were kids and played Nintendo sitting side-by-side like zombies staring at the TV for hours, not at each other, is that really different than kids sitting side-by-side staring at their phones like zombies playing games? The difference is now they can do the same thing with their friends cross town or cross country. Is that more addictive, or just more convenient?

Your Bugs Are My Features

And phones solve many problems. When I look at the phone in the elevator, it’s because I don’t want to talk to you or engage in what I consider worthless smalltalk. This isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. At that moment, I don’t want to foster a ‘greater sense of community’ and it avoids the awkwardness of my not acknowledging you by being distracted by a plausible acceptable alternative activity. But pro tip, when I do want to engage with others, I just put my phone in my pocket and talk to people I want to talk to. See how that works?

When you pacify your kids by shoving iPads/iPhones in their face during car drives, it’s not because you were hoping they would argue and ask you annoying questions the entire ride. It’s because you want some peace and quiet, and them being entertained during an otherwise boring trip is a good thing. But pro tip, when you want to engage with them, tell them to put the phones away and have at it.

When your kids pay attention to their phones during dinner instead of engaging in conversation, it’s probably because both of you have nothing to say, and, many times the phone is a way of bringing up a cool topic to discuss to kill the dead air. “Hey mom, did you see that Justin Bieber is dating someone new, check out what TMZ says. Hey dad, I saw that the Patriots made a dumb trade, did you see it on ESPN? Hey Bobby, did you see the neighbors dressed their cat and made it play the piano, check it out!” And if you don’t want them on the phone during dinner, pro tip, tell them to put it away.

And if you really don’t like this incredible advancement in technology for your kids, do like Steve Jobs, and monitor and control and/or outright forbid its use.  If he can do it, so can you.

Real addictive technologies are being ignored so people can yell “Apple” in a crowded internet

Which is not to say there aren’t technologies that are constructed to purposefully hook and addict users. Gambling comes to mind. Some slot machine makers employ psychologists to construct mechanisms that are purposefully addictive. These companies employ techniques that promote human compulsion, preying on other human frailties, e.g., providing microbursts of rewards (rewarding sounds and visuals) even when you’re overall losing to encourage further play. Some app makers are reported to have employed many of those same techniques to promote addiction, including games and social media apps. That is totally messed up, and actually worthy of reporting and attention.

But that is too boring for SSAAD. Plus it doesn’t have the clickbait word “Apple” or “iPhone” in the title. Not only is there no evidence of Apple purposefully designing its phones and apps to be addictive, the company is so goody-two-shoes in its soul that it actually provides mechanisms to thwart and reduce use, e.g., black-and-white mode, ability to turn all notifications off, Apple Watches to reduce reliance on the phone, etc.

Apple is only guilty of making a profoundly useful device that has augmented and advanced humanity’s capabilities. These ‘addicts’ are at worst guilty of blaming others to justify allowing their id to run rampant, or at best guilty of being media attention whores along with a complicit and abjectly horrid press.

Here’s one last pro tip. If you use your phone too much, and don’t like using it too much, then don’t.

21 Comments Add a comment

  1. gGrant

    Love your work John. I agree…
    Technology isn’t addictive. Some apps are deliberately designed to be addictive. Facebook employs more psych graduates specifically to make its apps addictive than it employs coders. The endorphin hit from getting likes and messages is specifically targeted and frankly is now a significant public mental health problem. It’s all well and good to ask Apple to give us tools to measure and (somehow) control our addiction, but it’s a personal problem – we need to learn that just because we -can- do a thing, doesn’t mean we should.

    Also loved the Star Trek analogy. I have another. You don’t see anyone saying “I’m going to do all my work on my PADD, I don’t need the computer anymore.” iPad is made for people who don’t want or (situations where they/we don’t) need a computer. That’s a huge new market, completely different from the computer market. We have nutters who try to do all their work on iPad, and I applaud them for doing Apple’s PR for them, but iOS was designed for iPhone and never to be a computer. I can create content on iPhone/iPad, but it’s not as extensive as I would create on Mac. I have no problem with that. Each device has its purpose. Apple has had 10 years of touch device experience to come up with a superb touch Mac interface, but you get the feeling all the effort has gone into the dead end of the deliberately limited iOS. You can’t say a good touch Mac would cannibalise iOS sales because, as noted, it’s an entirely different market, and given the size of Mac’s market, would have no impact on iOS sales anyway! Lets hope the group that (I trust) is revising App Kit and Xcode based on 10 years of iOS experience beats the port-to-Mac Marzipan group when decisions get made. Given the pre-iPhone Touch Bar technology was added to Mac, my hopes are not high.

  2. geoduck

    Each generation seems to have this boogie man of “this is too good, so it’s addictive, so…burn the witch” movement. First TV was too addictive and society will die. Then it was video games. Then computers. Then we were addicted to the internet.

    Even farther. Congressional hearings were held into the dangers of comic books. I think the same was done for rock music. I remember reading that people were worried that radio would corrupt the youth of the 1920s. But the clincher is something I read back in college. Aristotle (if I remember correctly) once said that a particular trend becoming fashionable would corrupt the youth. They would never bother to learn their lessons again. What was the innovation? Literacy. He opposed the idea of anyone other than learned men being taught to read.

    Oddly enough this morning on CBC Ideas they ran a discussion about this very “danger”. What I found most interesting was the psychologist that was so against letting children have screen time didn’t seem to understand that correlation is not causation. Was incapable of grasping how weak a post hoc argument was. Oh, kids are using their screens more. Look at the opioid crisis. Look at the spike of suicides. Look at how lonely they are. Phones and tablets must be the cause. It was grotesque and offensive.

  3. furbies

    WTF ?

    Seriously ?

    Poor little diddums ! We have so little self control that we have to blame someone else because we can’t help ourselves.

    Ironically, if Apple had implemented some iOS feature that “alerts” the user if it notices that the user may be using their iDevice too much, these same poor little snowflakes would be all up in arms that the big nasty intrusive invasive evil corporate multinational was spying on their iDevice usage habits…

  4. CudaBoy

    Spoken like a true junkie, John. Denial is the first sign of addiction. TV is a great example of an addictive device that panders to the lowest common denominator while it’s sole existence is to sell you deadly addictive drugs (seems abc is solely sponsored by Big Pharma) and keep you from thinking. As a result the USA ranks like 14th in the world in “intelligence” i.e. math, science, history, literacy etc. If you don’t think the TV played a big part in the dumbing of the Baby Boomers – then they got you too. The nitwits addicted to texting, skyping, and any other stupid social Insta-shaming, flickering bullshit are keeping the “stupid” spigot open for a new generation of idiot Americans. Worse, it kills thousands every year courtesy of distracted driving- how stupid are you to kill someone because you are addicted and shamed into responding to a text within the social rule of a nanosecond?
    What about the waste of time while on these devices? Nope, where there is MONEY to be made – you will continue to market addictive deadly “medicines” and media babysitters like TV and worse this “smart” phone sham. Shame on all you that think otherwise; now go watch your The Bachelor or whatever. 😴

    • John Kheit

      Apparently I must have watched ‘basic logic’ on TV to see your error in talking about the uptake of rapes coincident with increased ice cream sales.

      Regardless, prove you’re right by giving up the computer and internet first.

  5. gGrant

    pop.0 is too a video podcast… in the making.
    in the fullness of time, with infinite TMO monkeys available to him, one day Bryan will complete the process.


  6. gGrant

    I think you’re making my point for me. We’re a lot closer to pop.0 ever being a video podcast than your example. 🤞

      • Goff256

        Oh, we’ll definitely cure this cold before they get around to making it a video podcast.

  7. gGrant

    I applaud John for his “The kids are alright” view of this, and while that’s possibly true, it’s not just the kids. Social isolation across the entire population has lead to adult addiction as well, to a degree that I’m not sure we’ll grow-out-of-it. We may, but I think this is different and more profound. As gambling addiction methods lead to a serious social problem, those same methods applied to social networks lead to a serious social addiction and problem. It hasn’t been properly identified, likely because there’s a lot of money in being able to manipulate public opinion – see how well the conventional media made-out before the internet stole their lunch. Advertisers and propagandists (legal again, thanks to Obama) are not about to kill the new golden calf. The internet being more diverse, their agenda are much harder to see and that’s just money in the bank, as long as nobody wakes up!

Add a Comment

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter, Facebook) or Register for a TMO Account