Review: Alter’s Irresistible

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked
Adam Alter

This book, on the way smart phones and social media are behaviorally addictive, has led me to a mini-reading binge on the ways technology is changing our behavior for the worst. It’s been a personally transformative little journey that I’ll be writing about elsewhere and it started here.

Alter is a psychologist and an expert on behavior addiction. Here he shows how the nature of many of our consumer tech advances of the last ten years feed a desire to compulsively engage in online activity. Watching the likes pile up on Facebook, or the episodes automatically playing on Netflix encourages us to spend more and more time with these tools of distraction. And all that time cycling from Facebook, to Instagram, to twitter, is fundamentally changing the way our brains work, and our ability to focus. As someone who works in an area where focus is everything, this is troubling stuff. As Alter says, we can use some of these technologies to improve ourselves (step counters) and the world (online activism) but much of it is borderline destructive and should be treated with care. I know I’m paying far more attention to how much time I’m spending online and distracted.


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