Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On any given night of the week, say around 8 pm, do you find that you, your spouse, and all of your kids have their eyes glued to a screen of some kind? Does it bother you? Does it worry you? Read on.

In Irresistible , Adam Alter explains why we have become slaves to our devices by first explaining addiction, generally, and then by explaining technology addiction, specifically.
This alone is scary stuff. It gets more intense, though. I’m sure you’ve come across at least one article on how technology is actually changing our brains, right? Like me, you probably had a moment of extreme uneasiness -- just before clicking over to the next article.

In this book, after clearly defining behavioral addiction, Mr. Alter points out that behavioral scientists now have enough data to do valuable analyses of the effects of internet use on humans. He then closely examines how we get hooked, why we get hooked, and how our lives are impacted negatively; from obesity and diseases of sedentary-living to digital amnesia and a shrinking capacity for remembering. Although the author does devote a chapter to “what you can do to fight it”, when I put this book down, I was left feeling worse than when I read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

As with the last book I read on the topic of unwise and excessive internet use, this book began with examples of industry giants (Steve Jobs and a half dozen other “recognizables”) who would not under any circumstances allow their kids iPads or allow them to use the apps and games they develop. Steve Jobs was quoted specifically (soon after introducing the iPad as something that every person should own and use) as stating that his kids will never use one. It is hard to get past that, it really is. It is like discovering that the landfill in your backyard grew from the waste of Silicon Valley multi-millionaires who live hundreds of miles away.

I made myself read this book because I knew it would spur me on to action, even though I could not imagine what that action would be. Figuring out how to de-internet my life when every aspect of my existence is plugged into it? Seriously, I don’t have time for this. Then, I returned to page 242 which describes how in one study, thousands of US and European adults struggled to recall their own kids’ cell phone numbers, and, in fact, found it hard to remember any string of numbers. Does anyone other than me remember when we stored (in our minds) the phone numbers of countless friends and family members? Could you do that now? One study revealed how our ability to reach into the chambers of our own minds to retrieve information which is there has been compromised and changed by our choice to just Google it. For example: “I know the capital of Iowa. Give me a minute, I’m gonna remember this. Oh, never mind, I’ll ask Siri.” A few years of this behavior, and those chambers grow darker and darker.

While I don’t think I have time for this, I also know I can’t afford to do nothing. I don’t like the fact that when the power in my house fails during a thunder storm, no one knows what to do with themselves. (What did we use to do, back when we were humans?) I don’t like so much sitting at the end of the day. I want to do more and click less. I am not 21, but I am also not finished becoming who/what I want to be - living like an appendage to my device is not what I want to be.

I hope you choose to read this book. All unplugging suggestions warmly welcomed!

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