As a tech user, have you ever wondered why we tend to be constantly on our technologies? Why does there seem to be an irresistible pull in the atmosphere that keeps us effortlessly addicted? It’s hard to admit but a wide range of population in the world does seem to be unconsciously addicted to their tech products. Some of us may not be aware but these products use psychological techniques to influence our decisions. There is no denying that our brains have undergone a significant change due to exposure of new information all thanks to these cleverly designed interfaces.
As a designer, one of our main goals is to retain users, to ensure that they can use products in the simplest way possible with the least possible complexity, which unfortunately but unintentionally can encourage a form of addiction. But as users, we are also cognitive wanderers, misdirectors. We are built to minimize cognitive effort and save our critical thinking for when it is needed the most.
Here are some examples of those little details that are implemented in our technologies which make us unconsciously addicted: The personalized triggers like notifications designed with elements such as vibrations, banners, red dots or flashing lights mimicking signs of danger that cleverly lure us back to the apps for more interaction. Design features such as infinite scrolling that keep us constantly engaged. Luring us with new comments or “likes,” which create a compulsive need to constantly watch for updates in search of feelings of pleasure and reward.
As a result, our brain starts to function differently. The brain finds new ways of connections when we’re learning something new. It creates neural pathways that allow more efficient processing. This adaptation mechanism is very functional to conserve energy and the thinking capability once an action becomes a routine. This “unconscious ability” is beneficial in certain contexts, but also manifests itself in our digital behavior, leading us to mindless scrolling and unproductive habits…
So designers may not be able to influence how and when new technologies are deployed to the general public, but by starting to understand how the brain works. We can influence the adoption rate of new apps and perspectives and as technology users, it is also up to us to be aware of the potential dangers we put into ourselves and our future generations. Thus, a proper discipline and finding the right balance might not be so bad to apply to our daily use of technology.