Tech giants such as Google and Facebook are employing underhand tactics to get peoples’ brains hooked to smartphones.
The claims have been made by former Google product manager Tristan Harris, who says that tech companies using techniques borrowed from casinos to get people addicted to checking their phones.
According to Harris, the widespread phenomenon is known as ‘brain hacking’ by computer programmers.
He warned that the methods are “destroying our kids’ ability to focus.”
“They are shaping the thoughts and feelings and actions of people,” Harris told CBS News, adding that there is a whole playbook of techniques that are employed to get people to use their products as long as possible.
Harris said that notification streams on smartphones and apps such as Facebook are designed to excite the brain in a similar way to slot machines.
“Every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, ‘what did I get?’” Harris said, adding that this is one way used to hijack peoples’ minds and create a habit.
He said that this explains why apps allow users to collect rewards over time slowly.
For instance, social media app Twitter lets its users slowly build up followers, while Snapchat keeps a running score based on how much a person uses the app.
Harris revealed that competing companies are in a race ‘to the bottom of the brain stem’ to grab people’ attention and keep them glued to their phones.
He voiced his opinion that the tactics used by tech companies ‘are weakening our relationships to each other’ and ‘destroying our kids’ ability to focus.’