Distraction Is a Designer Drug. You Are an Addict, Too

If I told you that you were an addict, you would most likely object. You aren’t a drinker, you quit smoking when your sweet baby boy was born and you haven’t done anything else in your life. But if you still are addicted to such habits, you can get help of drug detox program lubbock and get over this addiction. 

Addiction is a complex topic in psychology and can occur in many forms. Often, it is assumed it means only to compulsively engage in drug and alcohol abuse, post which people have to look for options like rehabs near me, so that they can get treated; but the fact is that behavioral addiction can occur with all the negative consequences in a person’s life as well. There are places like alcohol rehab fort myers that can help people restore their lives back to normalcy.

It can include staying glued to YouTube instead of working, constantly checking email, shamelessly answering WhatsApp while meeting with friends, thus multitasking and dividing attention incessantly. The drug rehab culver city has professionals that can help with overcoming addiction.

Thanks to the new technology, most of the Western world displays serious behavioral addiction, so much so that last year, an editorial in The American Journal of Psychiatry raised the prospect of adding “Internet addiction” to the DSM.

Interruptions are the scourge of modern life

Our days and nights are full of gadgets that ping, buzz and beep for our attention, taking us away from whatever we are doing. And we zealously swipe, click, like and tweet. But why?

When I worked a bit in a cognition research lab, we had rats that pulled pedals and levers to dose themselves with morphine or gulp water mixed with cocaine. Rats aren’t only excellent model animals for brain research with regards to anatomy, but they can become addicted just like humans.

Drugs activate their reward system, and thanks to Skinner’s experience, we know that being rewarded has an especially pleasing effect. The most irresistible reward is the one which we are given constantly by something called “variable ratio schedule”, meaning they arrive at random.

Randomness gets us hooked. As we stumble upon Instagram, we feel the same adrenaline rush and intoxication as gambling on a slot machine. This is intertwined with the desired outcome and reward: the social proof, acceptance and love of others. Instagram likes to make us feel better about ourselves from a very safe nest enclosed with screens.


On a physiological level, reward is just a hormone injection in the brain which makes neurons feel like Cleopatra in a milk bath. Tons of clues which were evolutionarily important in the past still determine our lives trigger this physiological reaction. Sugar? No problem, carbohydrates are a treasure. A demi-god lover? Magnifique. Kindness and popularity? Ensure survival.

Digital products give us these things wrapped into buzzing. Every ping potentially means something, something which flares neurons and flushes with the feeling of satisfaction and pleasure. And no one wants to miss anything in this maze because maybe the next ping will mean the love of your life has arrived.


Why is multitasking a myth?

It has been calculated that we can attend to only 110 bits information per second or 173 billion bits in an average lifetime.

Gloria Mark found that a typical office worker gets only eleven minutes between interruptions, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task. Switching has a cost. But it not only exhausts the brain but literally damages it.

Those are the hidden costs of multitasking. It slows work down, lowers the IQ, leads to shallower, less flexible learning, reduces efficiency and performance and leads to less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex (responsible for empathy) as well.

People interrupted by technology score 20 percent lower on a standard cognition test. They found heavy multitaskers were actually worse off than those who like to do a single thing at a time. Decreasing our ability to focus, multitasking tremendously obstructs reaching the flow state.

It keeps people away from deep focus and unlocked creativity energies. It takes us away from the here and now. It sounds like we have far more than enough reasons to stop multitasking. Then why is it so painful to stop?

loop diagram

You are your habits

Habits make up the automatic working which mode the brain uses to save energy and simplify our lives. It needs a cue or trigger, behavior as a response to that certain trigger and a reward. The response can be emotional, physical or mental.

The reward makes it worth remembering and repeating a behavior. If it didn’t have a kind of inner advantage, we wouldn’t follow it. Unfortunately, not every habit provides something good in the long term.

So we are eager to react to distraction and multitasking. Reduced attention span due to distraction is nothing but just a habit reinforced by brain activity and dopamine. It provides instant rewards. The bigger the reward, the easier is to learn a habit and fall into the pit of distraction.

technology distraction

According to a new research conducted by University College London, it takes an average of 66 days to create a new habit. Once a habit is learned, the brain is wired that way irreversibly until it is replaced or substituted with another. The prefrontal cortex, the front of the brain, not only grants control of emotions but can help beat old patterns.

In UX, enforcing the forming of a habit — consciously or unconsciously — is a goal when we create digital products. We explore how people behave, and plan accordingly.

For example, if we want to decrease a bounce rate at a particular point after looking into the data and testing it, we can recreate a design in order to keep people engaged and help them not let go in the process of working on a project. We influence them, and in doing so, we have a responsibility.

Why are ethics not outdated?

UX-ers take part in habit-forming, so we have to take responsibility for what kind of habits people form. We shouldn’t rob value and focus on people, but follow the initial idea to ensure a better, more fulfilling and easier life for them, to answer exceptionally real urgent problems.

We have to make decisions thoughtfully through product planning. How much do we make people rely on us? How much do we nag and nudge? How many times do we overwhelm? How many times do we enhance our product importance for no good reason?

Every second we destroy people’s attention and shorten their ability to focus, we take away valuable moments like dinner with friends, weekend time with family or just productive, creative and satisfactory work.

Marketing these days is not primarily about money. It is about attention. Every part of a person’s attention and emotional input can be converted into money later on. Profit is an inevitably important part of doing business. But ethics is just as important.

So, every time you would like to have some extra shiny details, think about your cluttered, stressful, overwhelming days. Would you like those extra shiny detailed notifications, emails and endless source of distraction? I doubt it.

dalai lama


Without ethics and a real consideration of the people who interact with our product, we dehumanize everything around us. It assumably makes more money but leads to a worse addicted life. For you. For your beloved. For everyone.

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