Author: Adam Alter
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review By: Shana
Alter's book packed a particular gut punch for me. Like many, I sometimes joke about being attached to my wireless devices, and I can point to many times I stayed up later, failed to run errands, or put off important chores because I was engrossed (or mindlessly scrolling) in the internet, social media, or a game. But as Alter explained the history of addiction and behavioral addiction, how it is defined, how it works in the brain, and then how our brains specifically interact with technology, I started to see myself and my relationship with my devices in a different way.
Alter is an excellent writer and synthesizes a number or areas into an approachable, intelligent, and important book. The chapters on addiction ably look at substance abuse and then how the definition of addiction began to expand to include behaviors, and how such addictions work in our bodies. This alone is helpful for those who need grounding in the science. He moves on in Part 2 of the book to look at how the technology we use is designed, and how easy it is to design games, apps, and other aspects of technology to be addictive. These chapters are especially striking as you will likely recognize the aspects he describes and how hard you personally find it to turn away. Ranging from the need to constantly check email and texts, to games ranging from Candy Crush to World of War Craft, to the architecture of streaming services like Netflix and the pull to just keep watching and binge, almost all readers will be reminded of their own technology use in some way.
In Part 3 he discusses ways that we can moderate our technology use and the burgeoning treatments being applied to addicts. Especially striking is the discussion of how hard it is to moderate our habits. Unlike substance abuse, where people are advised to avoid places that act as a trigger (certain groups of friends, bars, etc.), technology is ubiquitous, and you can't really go cold turkey and abstain - you have to find a way to use the technology reasonably. Perhaps most striking is the discussion of the impact of our technology habits on children. We have yet to have an entire generation reach adulthood who have been so immersed in technology, but early signs clearly point to the fact that screen time should be fleeting if at all for very young children, and screen time for older children should be monitored and of certain types (interactive, not passive, for instance). But such changes are harder to affect when screens are everywhere and parents, themselves, find it hard to look away.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...