Your Phone is Designed to Control You And Your Life

An alarming new report from The Economist exposes the extent to which tech companies are exploiting our psychological impulses to keep us hooked to our smartphones.


It often goes over our head the influence that tech products exert over our behaviour. Former google employee and leader in promoting design ethics in tech Tristan Harris explains:

 “Companies say, we’re just getting better at giving people what they want. But the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Is each one a conscious choice? No. Companies are getting better at getting people to make the choices they want them to make.”

Behaviour Design 

How have companies mastered this? It all stems from the expert study of “Pursuasive Technology Design” an illustrious programme spearheaded by Professor BJ Fogg of Stanford University which has produced everyone from the creators of Instagram to the people at the top of tech in Apple and Google.

Be it the emails that induce you to buy right away, the apps and games that rivet your attention, or the online forms that nudge you towards one decision over another: all are designed to hack the human brain and capitalise on its instincts, quirks and flaws. The techniques they use are often crude and blatantly manipulative, but they are getting steadily more refined, and, as they do so, less noticeable.

And it’s not just tech companies who are adopting this tactic. Even banking and insurance companies have started modelling their customer interface design along the lines of Candy Crush.

“It’s about looping people into these flows of incentive and reward. Your coffee at Starbucks, your education software, your credit card, the meds you need for your diabetes. Every consumer interface is becoming like a slot machine.”

It’s a startling phenomenon of the digital age and something we should all be aware and conscious of. We wouldn’t allow our family or friends become addicted to gambling so why don’t we care about addiction to social media which to the brain is the same thing?

The exciting explosion of smartphone technology has overshadowed the questioning of it’s potentially more pernicious effects and we have nonchalantly accepted the terms and conditions without reading the small print.

Check out Tristan Harris explain how it works in more detail below:


Read the Economist article in full here:

22 thoughts on “Your Phone is Designed to Control You And Your Life

  1. Thanks for posting, Conor. Very good PBS interview with Tristan Harris. Some of my friends work for Google, lovely people, and I see that they themselves are becoming total slaves to their devices, their jobs, their work-intensive lifestyles; so much so that I see they have less time for their families, their friends, for life outside their Googleverse (Google Universe).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I recently had three weeks with no internet. It was horrible, for a few days. Then it became total and utter bliss. I was more productive and slept soundly for the first time in years. I think we’re all ‘on’ way too much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Someone who is trying to trick you into buying something is not doing so for your benefit.
    The other scary issue is that they now provide different slants on the news depending on your profile. What I am given to believe is that it’s not just people searching for news that fits what they want to hear but rather that the news that pops up on your screen may be different than the story that shows up on someone else’s screen even when you supposedly click on the same story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting and I’m so guilty. This week I have actually tried actively to find ways to use my phone less but everything is there..
    Music, running app, grocery lists… Yes the tech industry sure has succeeded in getting me addicted to my phone and I’m so sick of it. Paper and pen where are you?!

    Liked by 1 person

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