17. Habit vs. Addiction

One can speak of a habit when users are a tiny bit bored and immediately open Twitter. They feel a stab of loneliness, and before they even consciously think about it, they are scrolling through their Facebook entries. A question pops into their head, and before they even use their brain, they Google the answer.

Nir Eyal, Hooked – How to Build Habit-Forming Products, 2019

Habits are one of the ways the brain learns complex behaviours.

Eyal, 2019

Habits are a kind of shortcut that lead to automatism because they offer an optimal solution for a recurring action. These include all routine actions, such as brushing teeth, washing hands, etc., but also nail biting – a sorry habit that usually happens unconsciously and is triggered by stress.

Social media are strongly habit-forming because they offer diverse and, above all, simple solutions to boredom, frustration, loneliness, need for information, insecurity, etc.

According to Eyal, habits are formed through a loop of four phases – a kind of chain reaction – coupled with associations. By going through this loop again and again, certain courses of action in combination with emotions become solidified over time and then become a habit, i.e. you do it without being aware of it:

  1. External or internal trigger
  2. Action
  3. Variable reward
  4. Investment


Nir Eyal: Hooked – How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Redline, 2019. (Book)

Jaron Lanier interview on how social media ruins your life, Youtube-Video, 21 min

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