Internet addiction and the techniques that stick

(Written by WillB)

This article is about internet addiction, the techniques used to amplify and exploit it, and how the exploitation of these techniques is a business imperative for companies that make their money online.

Internet addiction is a growing concern, and there are quite a few writers who’ve written on the topic. Damien Thompson  identifies how technologists are getting better and better at “the distilling of pleasures”. Bill Davidow writes about the rewards that exist for web companies to ramp up the addictiveness of their sites in an online world where users are always connected, and hence there are no physical barriers to indulging in addictive behaviour.

Few though have written about the actual techniques that are used to retain users’ attention, which is what I will be writing on here. My aim isn’t to say they are all inherently bad; after all they work because they appeal to us. However, I think it is useful to recognise what they are, and to recognise their role in driving compulsive behaviour.
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