Hooked on Instagram? You're not alone.

This month Book Club members read ‘Irresistible – The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked’ by Adam Alter and it got us all thinking....


We all have the potential to be addicts. Addictions develop not as a result of a pre-disposition to becoming addicted, but rather as a result of our environment and context. Unconvinced? Consider the fact that 20% of US soldiers in the Vietnam War developed addictions to heroin as a means of coping with their unimaginable surroundings, but when they returned home 95% of them stopped using. A change of environment led to a change of behaviour. That's just one example cited in Adam Alter's new book ‘Irresistible – The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked' in which he explores addiction and how modern technology and products are designed to play upon our addictive tendencies.

Are you addicted to your phone? I think I might be to mine. The Moment app, which monitors phone usage, (installed whilst reading the book at Adam Alter's suggestion), has some pretty frightening statistics. I typically spend 2-3 hours a day on my phone, checking it on 50 to 75 occasions. It's difficult to claim I'm not addicted when I find myself repeatedly dragging down the screen to get the latest updates into my feed. Or the pangs of satisfaction I get from an Instagram picture that gets more likes than usual, the re-tweeted tweet or the well-liked Facebook post. Dopamine generating metrics pushed by the platforms to reward participation and encourage repeat usage.

So it appears that we're all at risk of developing behavioural addictions to the devices that are rarely out of arm's reach. Concerning. Or is it? Surely, we've always sought relaxation and a means of switching off – is browsing our phones for lengthy periods simply an alternative to lengthy stints in front of the television? Or reading a book?

Irrespective of how damaging we consider all of this to be, one thing is certain: we are using our phones more than ever, and this trend shows no signs of abating. So, what does this mean for providing the best customer experiences?

A ‘mobile-first’ approach isn’t just a nice to have. A brand’s route to customers is increasingly via a 5.5 inch screen, often with a sub-optimal network connection. We need to create mobile customer experiences that wow people despite the limitations that are in place.

The assertion that behavioural addiction to technology is damaging remains open to debate. However, there can be no argument regarding the fact that for brands to survive in the modern technological landscape they must deliver fantastic experiences to consumers via the devices they use. This may require brands to break their own addictions to the ways they’ve done things in the past, and to resist the temptation to subscribe to their respective end-of-history illusions by embracing the opportunities and growth that new technologies and behaviours provide.