I once deleted Instagram from my smartphone in an attempt to minimalize the time wasted on social media. Over the next few days, I found myself instinctively opening my phone and scrolling to the place where the Instagram app icon used to be, only to realize that it was not actually there anymore. This opened my eyes to see how mindlessly I was always opening Instagram without actually really wanting to. A lot of people may recognize this, as it seems to be a common problem. How does Instagram keep you so hooked?
In the mobile app industry, the success of an app is often measured by the extent to which it introduces new habits to its users. When you manage to create an app that makes the user open it over and over again, it generates more money for the company. This is why it is not really surprising to see that apps are intentionally being designed to be addictive, it is just what works from a business point of view (Businessinsider).
The Fogg Behavior model
Because money is generated by the attention of the users, behavioral design is the core of the app development industry. To actually make the app change the users behavior, certain models for behavior are used, the Fogg behavior model being the most well-known. The Fogg behavior model tells us that there are three requirements for creating a habit: Motivation, an action, and a trigger.
The motivation in the case of Instagram can be one of two things. It can either be anticipation for expecting to see something nice or interesting, or it can be fear of missing something. Both can motivate you to open the app and start scrolling, which one it is mostly depends on the person and the situation.
The action is simply clicking the app icon in order to open the app. For forming a habit, it is very important that the action is very simple to perform and does not take much time. In the case of Instagram, the action satisfies both.
The trigger is a notification. This can both be in the form of your phone vibrating, hearing a notification sound, or simply a notification popping on screen. This triggers the motivation part of the cycle after which you are bound to take action by opening the app. If this cycle is repeated enough, a habit is formed. When a habit is formed, these actions can happen without thinking, like in my Instagram example (Behaviormodel.org).
This behavior modification does not have to be something negative. There are a lot of apps out there that make you improve as person and help you in the daily life. App usage can however become a problem when you get actually addicted. Estimates suggest that almost 210 million people worldwide suffer from social media addiction, and this number is expected to be rising (Truelist). When addicted to social media, it has the same symptoms as any other addiction: Mood modification, withdrawal symptoms, impact on daily life, and relapse (Addictioncenter).
Social media actually is addictive both physically and psychologically and should be handled with care (Addictioncenter). This is why I think that there should be regulations in order to force social media companies to make their apps less addictive, albeit against their financial motives.
Good content! I always end up opening Instagram whenever I am looking at my phone. Sometimes I forget what I actually wanted to check on my phone, because I spent minutes scrolling on Instagram. Though I know I do not have a social media addiction, I spend way too much time on apps than I would like. For apps such as Instagram and Facebook you can request the app to give you a notification whenever you spend a certain amount on time on the app. Now, Instagram gives me a notification after spending 30 minutes per day on the app, this way I want to make myself more aware of the time I spend on social media. Though it gives me insight in my social media usage, I still find it difficult to bring overall usage of apps down.
As a person who is also extremely addicted to instagram, this is an interesting analysis! I’ve moved my instagram app deeper inside a folder on on my phone so that I would less likely to open the app as it will be harder to find it, however within only a few day the action of opening the folder to find instagram became a habit for me, not really making a difference in my screen time. The explanation about how phone rings can be a trigger explains the reason why I always lost my stream of focus when I hear a notification sound, and it becomes irresistible to check it. I didn’t know that app developers had such an intrinsic way of making people addicted to their app, and knowing this makes me feel very uncomfortable 🙁
It is very interesting to read this blog, as I am also kind of addicted to Instagram and tried to manage the addiction by turning of the notifications, using a time limit on the app, or even deleting the app. However, although you argued that the trigger can be the notification, in my experience, it is not just the notification that triggers me to open the app. Although I sometimes turn off the notification, I still feel the constant need to open the app to check whether anything happend or not. Maybe even because there are no notifications, I feel like I should open the app and check if anything happend. I am curious what you do to manage the addiction? Overall, good blog!!
This is so true! Instagram and other social media are just a nightmare if you need to be productive. They take so much time and you might not even realize it. Time flies when you keep scrolling the feed.
For me, the main motivation to open Instagram is indeed the fear to miss something important. I always watch stories because I know that they will disappear and I will never see what those people posted. Of course, this is ridiculous. There is usually nothing important but still, I keep checking. It’s a curse of today’s world.
Nevertheless, there is also another side. You know how your friends are doing, you can chat with them and all of this is done with the help of Instagram. So as usual, there two sides.