Stuart's Blog

How They Hooked Us

I've been using Reddit for a while now, but not so long that I used the 'old' Reddit. In a bid to make my online life more boring I switched to 'old' Reddit. The main reason is that I'm quitting things, as far as possible, that have infinite-scroll.

On changing to 'old' Reddit, however, I discovered some very interesting things.

Firstly, after only a couple of days on the old design I no longer get excited about looking at the site at all. It's not the first thing I want to do when I fire up the laptop.

But secondly, and more importantly, it gives us a clear as day example of how the internet has changed, and been designed to hook us.

Let's compare... here's 'old' Reddit:

Stuart Carter

Look at the information density - many posts on one page. And I get to be selective and discerning as to which ones I view.

There are no distractions, simply a list of items on offer, and the ability for me to click on them and learn more. While it's cluttered, it has vibes of the Tiny Web of which I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan every day.

Now let's have a quick look at 'new' Reddit:

Stuart Carter

This is immediately recognisable as a "modern" web app. Clean. Simple design. And incredibly addictive.

No wonder our attention spans are trashed... one item to look at, no curation or discernment... "we've taken all the effort out of deciding what you want to look at... our algorithm will do that for you."

And we know that there are an ininite number of novel things for me to look at if I scroll down. One at a time. Appearing in front of me. Maybe the next one will be the big payoff I'm looking for. It's the same hooks they use to keep gamblers addicted.

And then look at those distractions. Three big red invitations to do something other than what I planned to do today. And to fear missing out on if I don't click them. (There may be more for other viewers, I use an adblocker to remove as many addictive hooks as I can from websites).

No wonder we're all addicted. I knew academically that web developers have been working harder and harder to steal our attention, but it wasn't until today that I realised just how much work they've done, and the impact it has had.

I hope the Tiny Web really takes off... I will certainly be doing my bit to keep it informative and entertaining without stealing your most precious things... your data, your attention, your soul.

#tech #addiction #simple living

- 6 toasts