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Irresistible by Adam Atler

Irresistible by Adam Atler
By Elizabeth Filips • Issue #4 • View online
I first approached this book thinking it was going to be another cliche approach to “addiction is bad” and try to fuel some unrealistic, toxic-productivity, forced-detox vibes. But it actually made some great points. I did enjoy it in the end :)
Actionable takeaways
  • Environment plays a huge role in addiction: one of the best ways to change a behaviour/overcome an addiction is to just change your environment
  • Stop paying attention to social media shoving goals down our throats, its better to make some goals more difficult to measure - you don’t need a fitbit to be fit
  • Stop thinking about social media confirming your self-worth, what can happen is either you get social confirmation when it is positive, need for individuality when it is negative, or misery when it is negative - learn to dissociate from it
  • We actually don’t enjoy peace - we’d rather be challenged and will endure pain rather than have nothing to do - try to get yourself valuable default options for when you are bored
  • When a task is incomplete, it will stay in your mind - keep valuable tasks in your mind for as long as possible to get creative ideas on them (guiltless procrastination), once they are resolved, your brain will just forget them
  • Early adulthood is the highest risk period for addiction, so be more mindful of your choices at this time
  • Bright lights and music (casino) can change the way our brains perceive risk and make us more likely to engage in high-risk activities we wouldn’t otherwise - be mindful of this in ads for example - and use the opposite to make things more tempting for you to do
  • We choose pleasure (which can then develop into an addiction) over everything else, it is best to be mindful of the utility and consequences of those time-taking-repetitive actions we are doing
  • It’s good to limit children’s use of technology, or at least to make sure that they are getting enough real-life interaction with those around them, which is essential for their own emotional development and for their social skills
  • To be more mindful of how quickly we adopt new technologies: keep in mind that those who produce them often don’t allow their families to use them
  • To avoid binge-watching a show, stop right before a cliffhanger or watch the beginning of the next episode for it’s resolution and then stop avoid binging
  • Surround yourself with temptation and you’ll be tempted; remove temptation from arm’s reach and you’ll find hidden reserves of willpower. Proximity is so powerful that it even drives which strangers you’ll befriend. (don’t buy cookies in the first place)
What Is Addiction
  • Addiction is a deep attachment to an experience that is harmful and difficult to do without. Behavioural addictions don’t involve eating, drinking, injecting, or smoking substances. They arise when a person can’t resist a behaviour, which, despite addressing a deep psychological need in the short-term, produces significant harm in the long-term. Obsession and compulsion are close relatives of behavioural addiction.
  • We started to think of addiction as a form of learning. You can think of addiction as part of memory,” says Routtenberg. Addicts had simply learned to link a particular behaviour with an appealing outcome. For Rat No. 34, this was stimulation of his pleasure centre; for a heroin addict, the flush of pleasure from a fresh hit.
  • You start playing because you want to have fun, but you continue playing because you want to avoid feeling unhappy.
No-one Else Can Turn You Into An Addict
  • “Pain patients cannot be ‘made addicted’ by their doctors,” Szalavitzsays. “In order to develop an addiction, you have to repeatedly take the drug for emotional relief to the point where it feels as though you can’t live without it … it can only happen when you start taking doses early or take extra when you feel a need to deal with issues other than pain. Until your brain learns that the drug is critical to your emotional stability, addiction cannot be established.”
  • Addiction isn’t about ‘breaking’ your brain, or ‘hijacking’ your brain, or ‘damaging’ your brain,” Szalavitz says. “People can be addicted to behaviours, and even to the experience of love. Addiction is really about the relationship between the person and the experience.” It isn’t enough to ply someone with a drug or a behaviour—that person also has to learn that the experience is a viable treatment for whatever ails them psychologically.
Why The Internet Is Making You Miserable
  • The Internet has exposed people to goals they barely knew existed, and wearable tech devices have made goal tracking effortless and automatic.
  • When it comes to exercise, everything can be measured,” Sim says. “How many calories you burn; how many laps you run; how fast you go; how many reps you do; how many paces you take. And if you went, say, two miles yesterday, you don’t want to go less than that today. It becomes fairly compulsive.”
  • The moral is that it’s healthy to make goals more difficult to measure, but also that it is dangerous to have devices that monitor everything from our heart rates to the number of steps we’ve walked today.
But today, goals visit themselves upon us, uninvited.
  • Sign up for a social media account, and soon you’ll seek followers and likes. Create an email account, and you’ll forever chase an empty inbox. Wear a fitness watch, and you’ll need to walk a certain number of steps each day. Play Candy Crush and you’ll need to break your existing high score. If your pursuit happens to be governed by time or numbers—running a marathon, say, or measuring your salary—goals will come in the form of round numbers and social comparisons. You may find you want to run faster and earn more than other people, and to beat certain natural milestones.
  • People are never really sure of their own self-worth, which can’t be measured like weight, or height, or income. Some people obsess over social feedback more than others do, but we’re social beings who can’t ever completely ignore what other people think of us. And more than anything, inconsistent feedback drives us nuts. Instagram is a font of inconsistent feedback. One of your photos might attract a hundred likes and twenty positive comments, while another posted ten minutes later attracts thirty likes and no comments at all. People clearly value one photo more than the other, but what does that mean? Are you “worth” a hundred likes, thirty likes, or a different number altogether? Social psychologists have shown that we adopt positive ideas about ourselves more readily than we adopt negative ideas.
  • (Hot or not) Sometimes they matched and sometimes they didn’t, and both outcomes satisfied basic human motives: the need for social confirmation when they matched, and the need for individuality when they didn’t.
  • Discovering that you see a face the same way as other people see it is a route to belonging; it confirms that other people share your version of reality.
Social confirmation is brief, and we need fresh doses all the time.
Do You Like It Or The Colours?
  • Most of the time, rats tend to be risk-averse, preferring the low-risk options with small payouts. But that approach changed completely for rats who played in a casino with rewarding tones and flashing lights. Those rats were far more risk-seeking, spurred on by the double-promise of sugar pellets and reinforcing signals. Like human gamblers, they were sucked in by juice. “I was surprised, not that it worked, but how well it worked,” Barrus said. “We expected that adding these stimulating cues would have an effect. But we didn’t realize that it would shift decision making so much.” Juice amplifies feedback, but it’s also designed to unite the real world and the gaming world.
Why You Can Never Stop Hearing September
  • Jeff Peretz, a guitarist and music professor at New York University, told me that some ear worms achieve cult status because they plant cliffhangers that never resolve. He pointed to the colossal 1978 hit song“September,” by Earth, Wind & Fire, a combination of percussive bounce and brassy punch that begins with the line, “Do you remember the twenty-first night of September?”
  • But in other ways it’s very unusual. Many pop hits follow a standard circular chord progression—they launch like a rocket ship, hover for a time above the launch pad, and ultimately close the melodic loop by returning to Earth. In the world of Bluma Zeigarnik’s waiter, these tracks are fulfilled orders: they’re satisfying, but your mind leaves them behind when they end, and another song begins. Not so for “September,” according to Peretz. “One of the amazing things about the chord progression in ‘September’ is that it never lands. It makes this loop that you never want to stop hearing. And that’s why it’s so popular still, to this day. This same approach is used for the song’s main theme, its chorus, and its hook. It keeps going on and on. Without a doubt this contributes to its longevity. It has all the makings of an earworm. And this looped feature only makes it harder to leave once it does get stuck in your head.”
The Dangers Of Technology For Children’s Behaviour
  • Online interactions aren’t just different from real-world interactions; they’re measurably worse. Humans learn empathy and understanding by watching how their actions affect other people. Empathy can’t flourish without immediate feedback, and it’s a very slow-developing skill. One analysis of seventy-two studies found that empathy has declined among college students between 1979 and 2009. They’re less likely to take the perspective of other people, and show less concern for others. The problem is bad among boys, but it’s worse among girls. According to one study, one in three teenage girls say that people their age are mostly unkind to one another on social network sites.
  • (Steve jobs kids don’t use apple products) Why are the world’s greatest public technocrats also its greatest private technophobes? Can you imagine the outcry if religious leaders refused to let their children practice religion? Many experts both within and beyond the world of tech have shared similar perspectives with me. Several video game designers told me they avoided the notoriously addictive game World of Warcraft
  • When a society churns out millions of lonely, overworked children, why wouldn’t they turn to a boundless source of companionship and escape? That seems like a rational response to their disaffection. What brings about their undoing isn’t that they’re suffering from a disease, but rather that this digital world is so clearly superior to the real world they’re supposed to be inhabiting instead.


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Elizabeth Filips

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