‘We want you to get addicted’: App-maker overcomes his own cell-phone addiction

BY Rebecca Jacobson  April 11, 2014 at 3:50 PM EST

Video Still by PBS NewsHour

Video Still by PBS NewsHour

How many hours a day do you spend on your phone or tablet? How often do you check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites? College students check their phones an average of 60 times a day, and send an average 3,200 text messages a month, according to a 2012 study.

Cellphone addiction is increasingly recognized as a real problem. In 2012, two researchers studied cellphone use among people ages 19 to 38 and found that many of the excessive phone checkers and texters were highly impulsive — a component in behavior and drug addictions.

In an essay for the site Medium, Long Jeremy Vandehey describes how his excessive phone use caused him to put off meetings, forget information and ignore his surroundings and his friends. And mobile apps are designed to become addictive, he said. He should know, because he’s a mobile app developer.

While struggling to overcome his own addiction, he’s urging readers to turn their phones off:

“My telling you to put your phone down is a little bit like a girl scout telling you only to buy 2 boxes. We (as app makers) want them to be addicting. Like a potato chip manufacturer, we try to put just the right crunch and the perfect amount of salt so you can’t help but have just one more. We want you to get addicted. It puts the potato chips on our table.

There have been several great posts and humbling videos about mobile abuse so I hope I’m not beating a dead horse. I have no doubt that mobile is the future that is already here. Thousands of great apps have enriched and enhanced every aspect of our lives. As a human being, many of these triumphs are trumped by the overwhelming anxiety phones have instilled in us. We’ve trained ourselves to constantly seek refuge from boring, everyday life through our phones. We’ve grown so accustomed to this behavior that we can’t shut it out, even during truly exciting or beautiful times in our lives. We resort to the tapping (and) pecking muscle memory. The reality is 95% of each day is boring, everyday life. I had to hit rock bottom to realize I didn’t want to spend 95% of my life glued to a screen.”