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Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked


Edited by Ann Godoff

An urgent and expert investigation into behavioral addiction, the dark flipside of today’s unavoidable digital technologies, and how we can turn the tide to regain control.

Behavioral addiction may prove to be one of the most important fields of social, medical, and psychological research in our lifetime. The idea that behaviors can be being addictive is new, but the threat is near universal. Experts are just beginning to acknowledge that we are all potential addicts. Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, is at the cutting edge of research into what makes these products so compulsive, and he documents the hefty price we’re likely to pay if we continue blindly down our current path.

People have been addicted to substances for thousands of years, but for the past two decades, we’ve also been hooked on technologies, such as Instagram, Netflix, and Facebook—inventions that we’ve adopted because we assume they’ll make our lives better. These inventions have profound upsides, but their extraordinary appeal isn’t an accident. Technology companies and marketers have teams of engineers and researchers devoted to keeping us engaged. They know how to push our buttons, and how to coax us into using their products for hours, days, and weeks on end.

Tracing the very notion of addiction through history right up until the present day, Alter shows that we’re only just beginning to understand the epidemic of behavioral addiction gripping society. He takes us inside the human brain at the very moment we score points on a smartphone game, or see that someone has liked a photo we’ve posted on Instagram. But more than that, Alter heads the problem off at the pass, letting us know what we can do to step away from the screen. He lays out the options we have address this problem before it truly consumes us. After all, who among us has struggled to ignore the ding of a new email, the next episode in a TV series, or the desire to play a game just one more time?

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Other books by Adam Alter



Praise

“We live in an age of addiction—seemingly benign and otherwise—and Adam Alter, mixing the latest in behavioral science with briskly engaging storytelling, wakes us to an age-old problem that has found troubling new expression in the era of ubiquitous technology. You may never look at your smartphone in the same way again.” —Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic and You May Also Like

“One of the most mesmerizing and important books I’ve read in quite some time. Alter brilliantly illuminates the new obsessions that are controlling our lives and offers the tools we need to rescue our businesses, our families, and our sanity.”
Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

“For many, social media presents an ideal mode of expression, but it also holds the danger of becoming a crutch or – as Adam Alter’s brilliant new book illustrates – a behavioral addiction that threatens to undermine our mental health and relationships. Irresistible offers a crucial understanding of how we are psychologically tethered to our devices, along with much-needed solutions so that we can live rich, meaningful and healthy lives in an increasingly tech-driven age.”
Susan Cain, co-founder of Quiet Revolution and New York Times bestselling author ofQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
 
“As if to prove his point, Adam Alter has written a truly addictive book about the rise of addiction.Irresistible is a fascinating and much needed exploration of one of the most troubling phenomena of modern times.”
—Malcolm Gladwell, author of New York Times bestsellers David and Goliath and Outliers

“I originally wrote this sentence on an analog word processor—that is, paper. Such was the impact of Adam Alter’s meticulous research into behavioral addiction that I’ve become increasingly frightened of the monster that is my computer. Alter isn’t an alarmist, and is evenhanded and rational in his approach toward technology, which makes his fascinating and witty book all the more powerful. In a world of ever-increasing connectivity and omnipresent screens, Irresistible is absolutely essential reading. But for your own sake, buy the paper version.”
—Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game and Mastermind

“There could be no better guide than Adam Alter to a technological landscape that’s increasingly designed to turn us into addicts. Irresistible is both a brilliant exploration of the sometimes sinister ways we get hooked, and a manual for finding focus and human connection in the midst of it all. Your sanity will thank you for reading it.”
—Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking 

“Adam Alter has achieved the Holy Grail: a book that’s important, insightful, and a pleasure to read. With cutting-edge research about our tech-obsessed world, he soothes us via novel solutions to wean us from our social networks, smartphones, games, fitness watches and other gadgets. He also illustrates the stakes: that these technologies are preventing us from forming meaningful relationships, raising empathetic children , and separating work from sleep and play. Irresistible is essential reading if you’ve ever wondered why some experiences are so addictive, and how to regain control of your time, finances, and relationships.”—Charles Duhigg, author of New York Times bestseller The Power of Habit

 

“In Irresistible, Adam Alter illuminates the surprising, fascinating, and frightening biological and psychological connections between a toddler hitting every button in an elevator, a surgical patient asking for painkillers, and the millions of people hooked on Facebook. No one who has ever seen an advertisement, checked their email on a smartphone, or used the Internet will come away quite the same.”—David Epstein, author of New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene

“Looked at your phone recently? I thought so. Our devices have become more addictive than any drug, and thanks to Irresistible, now we know why. A powerful look at how technology sucks us in, and what we can do to resist its pull.”—Jonah Berger, author of New York Times bestseller Contagious

“If you can’t stop checking, clicking, surfing and liking, put your device down and read Adam Alter’s Irresistible, an important, groundbreaking book about why we’re addicted to technology, how we got here, and what we should do next.”—Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution and Thrive

“Adam Alter’s brilliant book is a necessary map for navigating a digitally connected world that’s teeming with addictive temptations. It’s also a crackerjack box of fascinating scientific discoveries on games, habits, and behaviors. I circled, starred, underlined, or wrote exclamation marks on basically every page.”—Derek Thompson, Senior Editor at The Atlantic, and author of Hit Makers

“A provocative, clearly written book that argues new technology causes new addictions.”—Kevin Ashton, author of How to Fly a Horse

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