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

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6 months ago

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Smartphones are really hard to put down. The buzzing of push notifications, the nagging red bubbles on apps, and endless feeds create the perfect storm of distractions. They keep us constantly engaged with the device. And that’s kind of the point.

Our apps and devices have been carefully designed to hook our attention for as long as possible. But are those designs making our lives better?

Former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris who recently co-founded the Center for Humane Technology raises that question. He has become one of the most outspoken critics of how devices are intentionally made to hook users at the cost of their time and comfort. Some of his alternative designs illustrate what a different app ecosystem could look like — where health and time are prioritized over constant engagement.

By Design is a new Vox video series about the intersection of design and technology, hosted by Christophe Haubursin. Watch the video above to see the three main ways smartphones try to manipulate users’ attention.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube.

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