Once you start paying attention to something, you see it everywhere.
February made me see design.
I discovered how life design helps you build the life you want. I also made certain design choices for my new apartment. Fun!
In my experience, we have a lot to learn from design. It can support healthy habits… or steal our precious attention and become highly addictive.
Are you paying attention to how design impacts your life?
Here’s why you’re addicted to your smartphone
Last Wednesday, I checked my smartphone 134 times in a day. Now I know why. It’s designed that way.
Your smartphone works a lot like a slot machine in Las Vegas. It provides what designers call intermittent variable rewards. Here’s how Tristan Harris, the former Design Ethicist & Product Philosopher at Google, explains it:
You pull a lever and immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing. Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.
Again, Harris gives us a few examples:
- When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.
- When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.
- When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.
- When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.
- When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.
Companies invest millions of dollars in creating this addictive technology, with books like Hooked: How to Design Habit-Forming Products and Seductive Interaction Design showing the way. Indeed, tech giants such as Facebook keep tweaking their algorithms to make sure you spend more time on their platform.
It’s really an exercise in mindfulness – are you habitually playing the slot machine, or are you making a concious choice to check your phone for a reason?
Reading this article on your smartphone? Don’t worry… this is a worthwhile task 🙂
Build your way forward with smart and ethical design
Here’s my biggest lesson from February:
Be more mindful of how design impacts your life. Build your way forward with smart and ethical design!
Re-build your greatest asset: your attention. For instance, go a full day without checking your emails. Delete your Facebook app and other addictive technology. Start a holy Friday ritual where you turn off your phone (gasp!) and put it in a drawer. Keep experimenting to see what works for you.
How does design impact your life? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Ethical design resources
If you want to learn more about ethical design principles, I highly suggest reading these articles: