By Cris Izquierdo

When dopamine wakes you up, you’re hooked

Digital | 2 min read


It’s 7:30 AM and the alarm is ringing. Before you’ve even kissed your loved one next to you and said good morning, your phone is in your hand and you’re checking the latest news, opening your mailbox or swiping through the latest stories on Instagram.

With hundreds and hundreds of notifications that you just can’t avoid opening, the well-known FOMO (fear of missing out) comes over you – checking where your best friend went for dinner last night, what was the latest bad word that Trump said or playing the viral video that someone sent you via WhatsApp. Without you noticing, it’s 8:00 AM and you’re late for work.

If you’re also suffering this in silence (don’t panic, it’s not only you, but 80% of the North American population)

If you’re also suffering this in silence (don’t panic, it’s not only you, but 80% of the North American population), you’ll know that dopamine is all over you from the moment you wake up. This neurotransmitter knows that a mobile device equals reward (a new email, two likes, one new contact who wants to connect…) and won’t let you escape.

It’s much more addictive than having a gin and tonic every now and then.

The funny thing is that we blame technology for causing all this, when the reality is that we should be blaming product and service designers for creating specific products and services that generate those well thought automatic behaviors in us.


We’re hooked on new (technology) habits that we didn’t have 8 years ago. But when did all of this start? When successful companies like Google, Amazon or Facebook learnt that by displaying the right external triggers to users that activate small rewards (mostly emotional) over and over again, users would end up needing this reward, and would become hooked by that piece of software.

Consumers will then activate themselves (without any promotional ad) through emotional triggers, building a habit for that product or service.

The question for the user experience is, how much of this addiction are we willing to feed? What is the limit for consumers to view tech companies as profit hungry to prompt them to avoid them? The good news is that as user awareness around this topic is increasing, the smartest tech companies are starting to change their company success KPIs from “engagement rate” to “quality time”.

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