With the increased popularity of online casinos, Instagram and other popular social media platforms are using the same tricks live casinos use to get you psychologically addicted to using their apps. They are also trying to ingrain the use of their apps in the minds of users.
Natasha Schüll, who is the author of a book called Addiction by Design, says that platforms such as Instagram use methods to keep people using their apps that are similar to the methods live casinos use to keep people gambling. She says that — while casinos use slot machines and other devices to lock you into a cycle of addiction — Instagram and others use what she calls “lucid loops” to draw you into cycles of uncertainty and anticipation so that you will keep looking at the app. Which is how they keep making money.
Schüll further mentions that, if you spend time away from Instagram, they will try to provide you with incentives to return, just like casinos do. She also says that, unlike with casinos, addictions to platforms such as Instagram can affect more than just your financial well being. They can affect you both physically and emotionally, too.
Tristan Harris, who was a Design Ethicist at Google, also compares sites like Instagram to slot machines. He says concepts such as infinite scrolling and actions to refresh news feeds are very much like a slot machine lever. They entice you with the possibility of a reward if you just continue looking. He further says — like a slot machine — most of the time when you push the proverbial level on Instagram, you get no reward. But this only pushes you to look more.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, who is a professor of Behavioral Addiction and who is the director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, says that the rewards Instagram and other platforms offer users for checking their news feeds is known as “variable enforcement schedules.” He says that by using this these sites are trying to make these activities habitual.
Many believe that addiction to social media is a key reason why revenue at these companies is at a record level, in spite of widespread privacy concerns that have rocked the world. They believe that people simply can’t stop using social media.
Nir Eyal, who is a behavioral psychologist and the author of book called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, also sees many similarities between gambling and social media platforms such as Instagram. Eyal says that they both use cycles of triggers, actions and rewards to hook people, and that these cycles for some can be addicting.