Thoughts on coding for addiction

It is 2am in the morning. I have been in bed for 2 hours now and I am not really having trouble sleeping, actually I am fighting sleep. I have checked Facebook 4 times since I have been laying down and Instagram twice and I have just finished my 4th round of Two Dots, just in time to see if my friends in America have posted anything interesting since I last checked. This is insane!

Growing up I remember articles about the big bad corporations trying to enslave the common man, MTV capturing the children’s attention and rotting their brains with addictive but stupid shows and fast food chains putting ingredients in their food that make us still hungry even after we have eaten 2 hamburgers, fries and a milkshake.

Today Tech addiction is a thing, people talk about the anxiety they have when they have been away from their phone for too long or have not checked their email, but this is not by mistake. As a developer I have read countless articles and tons of books on how to capture peoples' attention the minute the first page of your my site loads. I have read about the psychology of humans and how to make them form a habit subconsciously while using my software and how to make things so easy it feels like they literally did nothing to get results from using my service. I have read all of this and tried to execute as many as I can over the years, not because I am an evil cooperation trying to enslave the minds on the Internet. I am just a coder trying to get people to use my app, not even cause I am narcissistic, but because I feel if people form a habit of using this thing, their life will be genuinely better. But what differentiates me from the fast food chains? Or the TV Channels?

This is something that recently occurred to me and is quite troubling. In the industry we share all this information about how to make people addicted to our stuff but very few times do we sit back and wonder what the consequences of these addictions we are creating will be. Candy Crush is making a killing from how addictive their game is, but how many accidents has that led to? how many fires from forgetting food on the stove has that caused? Where do we draw the line on how addictive something should be? Do we take responsibility on people misuse of our ptoducts? or is this any of our business and we just carry on as we have been doing? Because if we don't capture their attention, someone else will.

When developing apps it is very easy to look at only the benefits of what we create, but it is also a good idea to be your own devils advocate and evaluate how things would be if your creations are used without moderation.