Is that a Slot Machine in Your Pocket? Some say Yes.

We have all done it, left for work in the morning only to realize you left your phone at home on the counter. What do you do? Some people will turn around, others will ask a family member to bring in, and a small group will just suffer through the day. I say suffer because that feeling of disconnect is sometimes hard to take.

This week’s blog is in response to a CBS 60 Minutes story on “Brain Hacking.”


Companies are developing apps with the specific goal of keeping you engaged, and sort of addicted. They talk about SnapChat and keeping track of streaks to encourage people to use the app more often, which leads to more ads and revenue. What scared me the most about this information is programmers were targeting the individual creating codes that are responding to how you use that smartphone, and when is the best time to give you “rewards” so you remain on the phone looking at ads longer.


It sounds like a futuristic movie, but it is here. This is one reason it is so hard to “unplug” and especially for teens being away from their phone and access is anxiety producing. If you think this does not impact you, think again… where is your phone right now?

In the CBS 60 Minute story Anderson Cooper talked to Tristan Harris, a one-time Design Ethicist for Google he now spends his time speaking out about the impact of technology on life, and has created an organization called Time Well Spent. His recent essay describes your cell phone as a slot machine, sometimes you get the reward of likes or other interactions, sometimes you do not.


I will admit to being conflicted while writing this blog. I am studying Interactive News, and the idea is to get the audience engaged and return to a specific website or app. It is a business, and this technology is what makes it profitable. In fact, you most likely read this blog after seeing a post on social media.

Push notifications from news organizations interrupt your life, so you feel the need to look at your phone and read the story. That is the goal of the news organization, get more eyes on the website or app to sell more advertising. Without that revenue, there would be no place for journalists work to be seen or read. I will continue to study ways to engage the audience and increase page views.

There are good and bad points to social media, it allows people to connect that may not have had the opportunity, it can also be a time waster and reduce productivity. Like everything there needs to be moderation.


Our smartphones are not going away. In the past ten years, they have become part of the daily life for millions. There is a whole generation that cannot imagine not being connected 24/7. I guess what we need to work on is how to unplug, and why.  How to get over the fear of missing something important. Remember you cannot miss something you did not see.


I do not believe it is realistic to completely go off of social media, most people feel the need to be informed. It is possible to set some boundaries, no phones at the dinner table, put your phone in a backpack while hiking, or even resolve to call a friend once a week. Knowledge is power and understanding why our phones, and social media accounts, are so addictive could help you make better decisions.

While writing this article I left my phone upstairs, I will admit it is driving me crazy!

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