What deserves our attention?

Online engagement equals cash money – and the tech world is out to get it! Our smartphones are literally designed to be as addictive as possible. No wonder Toys “R” Us struggled; kids are mostly into one kind of toy.

It feels as though every user around the world is simultaneously living their own version of The Truman Show. So what tricks do our smartphones use to pull us in? 

We can draw a parallel between the most addictive form of gambling and the way many social apps now function. What’s more satisfying and addictive than pulling down a slot machine handle? Apps cleverly replicate this pull feature to refresh pages to give the user an illusion of control. Corporations profit by keeping us hooked.

Colour is hugely important too. Eye tracking studies have shown that we’re drawn to bright reds and pinks, much more than to greens or blues. This is why all our notifications are red. Every colour, icon and notification on our phones are meticulously thought out in order to get the most attention and engagement from us.

Remember the Instagram rebrand? They got rid of the brown/beige icon to make it…yep…pinky/red! Airbnb and Google did the same with their logos to make them more striking. I wonder what the impact on our brains would be if our phone screens displayed in black and white? Every app on the home screen would operate on a level playing field. And it would probably lead to less procrastination. (I’ll confirm that another time.)

Perhaps the smartest design feature is ‘infinite scrolling’. There is no need to click to load new content, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and co. You just keep scrolling down forever, which makes it so much harder to stop.

How many of you ever get past page 1 on a Google search? Not many I bet. If search engines suddenly adopted infinite scrolling I imagine we would all struggle. But in a social context, it works to keep you going and going and going…

If you don’t fancy grayscaling your phone, try disabling any non-human push notifications which try to replicate the social interaction we desire. See how your usage drops to a healthy amount overnight.