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It’s not you. Phones are designed to be addicting.

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The 3 design elements that make smartphones so hard to put down, explained by Google’s former design ethicist.

Check out Christophe's video on how designers find inspiration in nature:

Read Ezra Klein's full interview with Tristan Harris:

Read our interview with Catherine Price:

Batch notification research by the Center for Advanced Hindsight, Duke University & Synapse Inc

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Today’s phones are hard to put down. Push notifications buzz in your pocket, red bubbles demand attention, and endless distractions sit at your fingertips. It can feel impossible to pull away from. But that’s kind of the point. When people talk about the “attention economy,” they’re referring to the fact that your time and attention are the currency on which today’s applications make money. Because apps profit off of the total time you spend on their platform, there’s a strong incentive to use psychological tricks to keep you endlessly hooked. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Tristan Harris, who runs Time Well Spent, is working to create a world where platforms can more honestly respect their users’ time.

By Design is a new Vox video series about the intersection of design and technology, hosted by Christophe Haubursin. Stay tuned for more, and check out Christophe's most recent work exploring design in our Vox + 99% Invisible collaboration:

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78 COMMENTS

Salokin - posted on February 23, 2018 7:16 am

Intresting video, but I need to check my messages first

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David Jones - posted on February 23, 2018 10:30 am

Salokin Cjai AH HAAAA. AH HO. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.

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Reece N - posted on February 23, 2018 10:42 am

David Jones wow you don’t say

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Moon Idle - posted on February 23, 2018 1:38 pm

The sad thing is I actually do this all the time

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MischievousMoo - posted on February 23, 2018 5:54 pm

Checking your messages isn’t the problem with phone addiction. The problem is with notifications, not messages from humans. You messed up the joke. How are 741 people not able to tell the difference between messages and notifications?

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New Message - posted on February 23, 2018 7:26 am

I watched this on a computer, just to be contrary.

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Jay Furler AK - posted on February 24, 2018 3:19 am

He’s been waiting his whole life to use this comment lol

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YugiKitten - posted on March 23, 2018 10:59 pm

Your icon… I wanna throw it in a river….

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Science with Katie - posted on February 23, 2018 7:32 am

I’m an avid “refresher”, such a pain ????

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hellokatiexo - posted on February 23, 2018 7:58 am

Same name… Snap! And me tooooo.

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Jordi El Niño Polla• - posted on February 23, 2018 9:28 am

gotta think more scientific and less emotional

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KCS XIV - posted on February 23, 2018 10:48 am

You are a bad person

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Groot - posted on February 23, 2018 11:01 am

you are a non science person Kattie .

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vksepe - posted on February 23, 2018 6:46 pm

Ive put my phone in permanent greyscale ???????? to get less addicted

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Glenn Bracy - posted on February 23, 2018 1:20 pm

The fact that this channel makes tons of money through YouTube, which use these EXACT tactics is pretty noble. They post this video on how to feed less into your phone and put more into productivity is a brave move on their part. This video could lose them money and because they are dedicated to US as viewers they are more concerned with getting this information to us. Thank you????????

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Johnny Ilca - posted on February 24, 2018 2:52 am

It doesn’t matter to the channel. People will subscribe, follow, and come back to Vox because they appreciate their message. They appear to be genuine, which is why I follow them

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Glenn Bracy - posted on February 24, 2018 3:00 am

Johnny Ilca Precisely

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Gregory Samuel Teo - posted on February 25, 2018 8:38 am

well, they didn’t go further into detail… it is actually already possible to customise how websites look and feel using css plugins such as Stylish. just takes a bit of patience and time to do your own… or use a style that someone else already created.

also, i think Vox wants you to believe that it’s not YOU who is being a mindless drone surrendering your free will to that tiny device you own… but that scary corporate overlord who is trying to surreptitiously control you.

the truth is… you can free yourself pretty easily. but they don’t tell you how.

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f4tornado - posted on February 23, 2018 2:20 pm

apps are addicting, not the phone.

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dA nUbS - posted on February 24, 2018 3:52 am

f4tornado They needed a good title

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Tobs Meks - posted on February 23, 2018 3:34 pm

Snapchat streaks are _only_ for this reason. That’s why I don’t do them.

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Tobs Meks - posted on February 26, 2018 6:15 am

Diamond Dog And I forgot to mention that a lot of times people just take one picture and send it to all of their friends.

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Tobs Meks - posted on February 26, 2018 6:16 am

calabrese098 Yes

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Diamond Dog - posted on February 26, 2018 6:00 pm

+Tobs Meks So basically there’s no point to it?

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Tobs Meks - posted on March 8, 2018 9:07 am

Diamond Dog The point is to get people on the app

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Blitzmister GMD - posted on March 13, 2018 9:28 am

Diamond Dog Same

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Jason Morgan - posted on February 23, 2018 3:34 pm

LOL thumbs up if this video also caused you to turn off autoplay 😀

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Nillie - posted on February 26, 2018 9:28 am

Jason Morgan
I never had it turned on to begin with, but I’m also the kind of person who refuses to have Twitter or Facebook (not that I use FB anyway) on my phone or to let game apps send me notifications.

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Tarwin Stroh-Spijer - posted on February 23, 2018 3:52 pm

After listening to your podcast with Tristan Harris I set my (Android) phone to grayscale. After 6 hours I had already noticed how “bored” I was and that didn’t grab me as much. As an added bonus the world around me was more colorful. Really! That was the crazy part. I’m so used to seeing such vibrant colors on my screen, and then (comparably) more muted colors in “real life” that going gray had made the world brighter and more colorful. Weird!

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AsellusPrimus - posted on February 23, 2018 4:00 pm

This video frames the problem as if it’s a technological issue we just haven’t designed a solution for yet. You’re not talking about the fact that companies like Facebook and Tumblr WANT you to be endlessly scrolling. Their business model doesn’t surround your wellbeing. So unless you plan to address that, you are not going to have any improvements on the side of the apps/services creating these addictive notifications and scrolls. For me, it helped to really think about the malicious intent behind them to realize that I do not want to play into their hand. And that’s not to say the people at Facebook or any other tech firm are malicious, but the need to constantly increase profit margins necessitate malicious design.

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Ysp - posted on February 24, 2018 5:46 am

Great point, well said.

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R Paz - posted on March 7, 2018 8:01 pm

AsellusPrimus They said exactly the same. Of course, they aren’t going to tell that ”Facebook and Google which owns this very place called youtube are malicious and do not care for their customers”. They made a free thought into our poor minds so addicts can figure out some way out or at least an idea of their situation. It helped me to further investigate into improvement, and that’s a huge one.

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R Paz - posted on March 7, 2018 8:16 pm

AsellusPrimus Your point is that malicious design is an eventual consequence of maximizing profits, which every company wants, so the real devil here is… money? That’s how capitalism works and I agree with you.

An ethical mindset is difficult to maintain because, after all, do customers care about the company? When was your last money contribution to the Wikipedia? It’s a vicious cycle, I think you’re malicious so I don’t trust your company and I don’t see you thanking me so I get my thanks with money advertisement.

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Dean Natuno - posted on February 23, 2018 4:39 pm

*Scrolling through comments* by the video’s description of Infinite may also be an addiction.

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bdsmStore.com - posted on February 26, 2018 12:34 pm

And shop at our online store

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Pratyush Ranjan - posted on February 27, 2018 8:57 am

Dean Natuno yes

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MusicChannel@monkeys.hk - posted on March 7, 2018 12:07 pm

But there’s an endpoint (after some thousand if you’re so addictive and want to read everythg)

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Pratyush Ranjan - posted on March 7, 2018 12:13 pm

MusicChannel@monkeys.hk there is a point,well said

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Teo Larrosa Granolleras - posted on March 9, 2018 12:01 pm

Hi addicted person, I’m the endpoint of this comment’s answers, so go spend the time outside right now you moderfucker

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tiffany mayer - posted on February 23, 2018 6:48 pm

i’m more addicted with my laptop than my phone, bc i’m obsessed with movies. i’m not that kind of person who can’t “live” without there phones. when i go to school and go out i never bring my phone bc i’m more focused with connecting and building relationships with others. my group of friends are always on their phone whenever i’m absent but when i’m with them i restrict them from using it, i make fun games for everyone it’s also a way for us to get to know each other in much deeper way while having fun

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Nova Alfiane - posted on February 27, 2018 12:45 am

matrixfull very well put 🙂 its sad but its the truth..

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Politics - posted on February 27, 2018 12:55 am

Tiffany how addicted to movies are you? I watched close to 300 movies in a month once lol. That was an average of 4.5 movies a day. Just because I had a huge list of movies I wanted to finally watch, and it was piling up and growing. Which made my anxiety get worse and worse lol. I’ve finally cut the list down to about 100 movies. Thankfully all of the must-watches have been watched.

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Hussain Sajid - posted on February 27, 2018 1:53 pm

i am just like u. i use my laptop a lot and barely use my phone. i also watch movies alot

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MineKnights - posted on February 27, 2018 10:31 pm

tiffany mayer I never had a phone until my sophomore year in high school. I could definitely live without a phone but i do like having one

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Mary Dinh - posted on March 14, 2018 7:50 pm

мσяє ℓιкє α ℓαмє fяιєи∂ ωнσ α¢тѕ ℓιкє ѕнє ¢αи тєℓℓ нєя fяιєи∂ѕ ωнαт тσ ∂σ. єω.

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Sweet old meme - posted on February 23, 2018 7:00 pm

Deleted snap and IG a few days ago. I have never slept better and thought clearer. Its all an illusion

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reob12 - posted on February 25, 2018 9:55 pm

what is IG?

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JackAttack834YT. - posted on February 25, 2018 10:19 pm

reob12 Instagram.

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Politics - posted on February 27, 2018 12:58 am

I’m a little strange. I never got addicted to Facebook or Snap or Instagram (I have a small social circle). But I’ve been addicted to YouTube (endless rabbit hole of videos) and reddit (endless rabbit hole of forums, profiles, content, etc.) I need to break my addiction.

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Sweet old meme - posted on February 27, 2018 12:00 pm

Politics that’s arguably just as bad

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Sunny shah - posted on February 23, 2018 7:07 pm

The best way to get over any kind of technology related addiction
Go camping in the nature, far from home and cities, for 10 days,
don’t take any technology with you, just take necessary items that you need for the next 10 days
trust me, it will not only put your body back to its natural circadian rythm, but help you overcome your addiction to phones, tv, social networks etc

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Olivia Allison - posted on March 5, 2018 9:07 pm

g0tst1ngs ever heard of summer

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Kill Steel - posted on March 9, 2018 4:04 am

done this before, but after you cut yourself off, when you go back to it, you have EVEN MORE things to catch up on and you will go back to the addiction straight away lmao

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michael montalvo - posted on March 9, 2018 2:17 pm

g0tst1ngs I just came back from a 10 day trip to Hawaii. I made the time .. You can too (also I had cheap airplane tickets and did airbnb

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michael montalvo - posted on March 9, 2018 2:18 pm

Kill Steel same here

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Kirbae - posted on March 11, 2018 4:13 pm

Sunny shah This is what i’ve thinking about as i saw others say and why i’ve been trying my best to be able travel frequently as i know it’ll do me some real good just as much

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Dakota - posted on February 23, 2018 7:54 pm

Haha the irony of this all is that Vox told us to hit the Bell icon to get ‘Push Notifications’ for new videos ????

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AniX GaminG - posted on February 24, 2018 5:20 am

Dakota lol

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Masterful - posted on February 23, 2018 10:24 pm

No it’s ur fault delete snapchat and get a life

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Masterful - posted on February 25, 2018 10:12 pm

i cant comprehend what you just wrote

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Diamond Dog - posted on February 26, 2018 6:04 am

Yeah, I totally agree. Just put the darn phone down, or at least delete your social media. Quit making up excuses.

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Gregory Samuel Teo - posted on February 26, 2018 11:04 am

tbh, i don’t even think you need to delete your social media or anything… just be in control of yourself!

if you wanna check facebook or whatever, go ahead… just don’t waste the entire day doing it. if you know you just can’t stop scrolling, set an alarm or something. if you prefer to “binge” social media, don’t do it everyday.

if you can control your youtube and netflix habits, you can control your social media usage. it is literally the financial duty of social media companies to keep people hooked and scrolling endlessly — you can’t blame them for designing their apps to be appealing. shopping malls are also designed to keep shoppers walking further and passing by as many shops as possible — do we think the designers are doing a bad job?

consumers need to stop being sheep. buy only what you need. do only what you should. all those other options are completely OPTIONAL. get a grip!

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onee - posted on February 27, 2018 4:20 am

Gregory Samuel Teo I hate moronic comments like this. Like only millenials are “addicted” to smartphones….

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Hazman Rostam - posted on February 23, 2018 11:23 pm

Consumerism. Is it part of addiction?

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Cup o' Joe - posted on February 25, 2018 3:00 pm

How about Maslow?

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Love - posted on February 26, 2018 12:41 am

Hazman Rostam it is if it gets in the way of daily life. Like a young person who has practically been raised by screens may become addicted, choosing that over schoolwork and employment

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Hazman Rostam - posted on February 26, 2018 8:13 am

Love lol true. Part of our daily life i guess. Hard to resist!

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gisforgary - posted on March 12, 2018 8:13 pm

capitalism in the 21st century is entirely dependent on feeding your addictions, from opioids to oil to even milk (caseins are addictive and milk corps knows this) and sugar (ditto). There is a reason your burger comes with cheese and there is sugar in the bun, you aren’t given a choice, “the land of the free” is a command market.

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Ysp - posted on February 24, 2018 5:38 am

I think it’s great people are thinking and talking about this. It’s something that I noticed very quickly when I got a smartphone: it’s like a black hole that sucks up all your time. I can spend an hour just looking at Instagram, without noticing that time passes. In the meantime, nothing else gets done. You can only spend your time once. I’m not a millennial, but Gen X, so I had a whole life before smartphones existed too. I like social media, I love my phone, but it worries me how much time it sucks up, while a lot of the time you don’t do a lot of other things in the meantime. It’s easy, always there, effortless, instant gratification, a quick fix that you don’t need to leave your house for or interact with live people with. I used to read more books, for instance, but I also have Netflix now, so you know where my time goes these days.

Something else I notice is something that worries me: I do a lot of walking and I use public transport for getting around. I have an injury that makes it more difficult for me to walk, so while I’m walking I don’t check my phone, since I need my concentration for the walking. And then I’m walking around a fairly busy town with people cycling and driving motor vehicles, while looking at their phones. I often feel like I’m one of the few people paying attention, except maybe elderly people who don’t have smartphones and think everybody who’s always on their phone is crazy (maybe they have a point!). It’s dangerous af, nobody’s paying any attention at all, walking around like zombies. Human beings think they’re great at multi tasking, but really, we’re not, neuroscience can tell you this is true and also why that is. So we need to focus on what we’re doing, be in the here and the now, if not for safety than to not miss it. You can only spend your time once, now doesn’t come around later, but your phone will still be there.

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TTTechnoPro - posted on February 25, 2018 8:04 pm

It’s not you. Vox made this title addicting

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Edho Zell - posted on February 25, 2018 11:51 pm

I just turn off all my notification… now i feel lonely…

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Christopher L - posted on February 27, 2018 11:56 pm

Boo!

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doraluffy - posted on February 28, 2018 11:36 pm

I can’t believe I found Edho Zell here, lol

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Bob Stuffguy - posted on March 4, 2018 12:14 pm

DUDE SAME. I just cured it by going outside and meeting people irl. It may sound scary but just do it. It works.

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Bob Stuffguy - posted on March 4, 2018 12:14 pm

DUDE SAME. I just cured it by going outside and meeting people irl. It may sound scary but just do it. It works.

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Gavyn Nayandra - posted on March 12, 2018 8:45 am

Bang edoooo

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Wolkify - posted on February 26, 2018 2:24 am

of course phones are addicting! just like social media – especially youtube. why do you think you landed on this video?
that being said, lemme upload more on my channel and contribute to the problem ????

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cobrexu - posted on February 27, 2018 8:07 am

what? so in your mind, VOX shouldn’t do videos that actually inform us .. if you’d watch it again, you’d maybe understand that the whole idea is letting your phone interrupting your life and destroying it, they said nothing about watching a good content video that you actually learn something from.

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