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Behavioral Designers are Developing Apps that Fight Tech Addiction

These rebel developers are spearheading the digital wellness movement.

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 A group of tech developers are working on apps and smartphone features that work toward curing the epidemic of phone addiction, according to the Washington Post. Calling their movement “digital wellness,” behavioral scientists and developers are calling out tech companies that target human psychological tendencies to make us crave our devices.

One famous “rebel” developer is Thrive Contributor Nir Eyal, whose 2014 best-selling book Hooked identifies the four elements used by technology to hook users: the trigger (the notification), the action (opening the app), user investment (interacting with posts through likes and comments), and the reward: whatever we’re seeking when we scroll infinitely through feeds, our brains surging with dopamine.

Eyal, who puts a strong emphasis on the ethical responsibility of tech, has spent the past year going to different tech companies and convincing them to install features that work to reduce device addiction. “We should be demanding that these companies use the data they’re collecting to help those who are overusing them,” he told the Post.

Eyal’s work, as well as other contributions from behavioral scientists to the digital wellness literature, have inspired developers such as Kevin Holesh to create apps like Moment, which challenges users to pick up their phones less frequently. Other applications like Forest, which encourages taking longer breaks from tech usage by planting a virtual tree on your device that dies when you pick it up again, are trying to target some of the psychology that goes into phone addiction and use it for good. The Post notes that apps like Freedom, SelfControl and StayFocusd, which help users block websites and applications that they feel they spend too much time on, are growing in popularity.

Apple’s recent announcement of new digital wellbeing features is seen as a victory by this group of developers—one that hopefully sets the stage for further developments.

Read the full article at the Washington Post.

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