Obsessive/Addictive “Tiny Red Dots” | Psychology Today

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Recently John Herrman wrote an insightful article for the New York Times Magazine entitled, “How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life” where he talks about the addictive nature of technology. He makes the point that the “reformists”—people like Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Technology—are trying to help the situation by appealing to tech companies to change their business model, but he sees no consensus or plan for those reforms. Herrman then focuses on the little red dots—known as badges—that appear at the upper corner of app icons alerting you, enticing you, telling you that you need to open the app to find out what is going on. Sometimes it is just a dot while other times there is a white number on the red dot background (sometimes ringed with a thin yellow line) telling you not only that you are missing out on something but how many “somethings” are awaiting you with just a tiny tap.

When the iPhone opened the app store a decade ago apps had one simple business model: Bring eyeballs to the app and keep them there as long as possible. In-app purchases, gamification, and alerts and notifications were helpful tools to a successful business. The dots were among the earliest alerting tools that iOS gave app developers and boy did they use them. Some apps automatically enabled notifications while others encouraged us to enable them and when we follow suit we found that our smartphones were replete with…

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