Social Networks Can Curb Addiction WITHOUT Making Their Products Suck

They can help addicted users while leaving the rest of us alone. If they wanted to.

Nir Eyal
4 min readNov 11, 2020

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About five years ago, I sat down in a series of meetings with leaders from Reddit, Snapchat, Facebook, and other social media companies. My goal was to discuss social media addiction and what might be done about it.

At the beginning of each meeting, I said something like, “You’ve got users on your platform who really want to use your product less, but they’re struggling to do so.”

Oddly enough, I explained, some people were actually using social media to help each other stop using social media! For example, some Facebook users had created Facebook groups specifically to help each other spend less time on the site. At that time, many tech executives didn’t know this was happening.

Then, I basically said, “If you’re able to find the users who want to stop using your products, you should try to help them. It’s an ethical obligation.”

Unfortunately, my advice fell largely on deaf ears. Now, regulators are trying to make all sorts of wacky new laws, including the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act, to get tech companies to reduce the risk of addiction.

There’s only one problem: these regulations almost always miss the point. Usually, the government “solution” is to ban specific features (like infinite scroll, autoplay, and gamification). But these bans aren’t likely to help addicts. Banning specific features is not going to make this problem go away; it will only make products less fun for everyone else. And by “everyone else,” I mean upwards of 90% of us.

Yeah. Contrary to popular opinion, only 3% — 10% of people are pathologically addicted to social media. For the other 90%, it’s a distraction, not an addiction. And in fact, for those of us in that 90%, thinking we’re “addicted” is counterproductive. Instead, we can and should take simple steps to keep this distraction at bay, along with all the other distractions in our lives.

There’s a better way to help.

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Nir Eyal

Posts may contain affiliate links to my two books, “Hooked” and “Indistractable.” Get my free 80-page guide to being Indistractable at: NirAndFar.com