Obsessions, Addictions and Compulsions image of woman looking at phone
Health, Mindset
August 8, 2017

Obsessions, Addictions and Compulsions

Did you know that the average American checks email within 6 seconds of arriving at work? Or that 75% of adults say they spend the entire day within an arm’s reach of their phones?

Whether we want to admit it or not, the smartphone has become a critical extension of our lives. And it’s easy to understand why. Smartphone technology allows us a number of communication options including voice calls, text messages, video chat and instant messenger. We have immediate access to the information and are constantly connected to the web. And with the advancement of mobile technology, we can do our banking, shop online, check movie times, check our heart rates, edit photos, publish blog posts – anytime, anywhere.

But what is this convenience really costing us?

In this episode of the Tony Robbins Podcast, we’re talking with renowned social psychologist, Adam Alter. Adam is an Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is also the New York Times bestselling author of two books: Irresistible, which considers why so many people today are addicted to so many behaviors, from incessant smart phone use and internet use to video game playing and online shopping. And Drunk Tank Pink, which investigates how hidden forces in the world around us shape our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Adam has also written for the New York Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, Atlantic, WIRED, Slate, Huffington Post, and Popular Science, among other publications. He has shared his ideas on NPR’s Fresh Air, at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, and with dozens of companies, including Google, Microsoft, Anheuser Busch, Prudential, and Fidelity, and with several design and ad agencies around the world. His academic research focuses on judgment and decision-making and social psychology, with a particular interest in the sometimes surprising effects of subtle cues in the environment on human cognition and behavior. His research has been published widely in academic journals, and featured in dozens of TV, radio and print outlets around the world.

Adam and Ana delve into the many ways our smartphones have become obsessive addictions. They look at how technology is precluding us from having a balanced life, and the serious implications this has on our social interactions with others and our capacity for compassion, empathy and connection. They discuss the role businesses play in perpetuating addictive behaviors by using strategic tactics when it comes to user experience. And they talk about what it would mean to withdraw and detox from screen experiences so that we can learn how to create a new sense of well-being in our lives.

This episode is all about becoming more aware. Because the more informed we are about the addictive nature of technology and even of business practices that keep us coming back for more, the more able we are to demand more – from ourselves, from others, and from the companies that we support.

Social Psychologist & Best Selling Author Adam Alter

Social Psychologist & Best Selling Author Adam Alter


[01:10] Introduction
[03:20] Welcome Adam
[03:30] 4 in 10 people have a behavioral addiction
[03:40] Defining “addiction”
[04:10] Our addiction to screens
[04:30] The consequences/impacts of our screen addictions
[05:20] How “passion” plays into addiction
[06:20] When a passion becomes obsessive
[06:35] Obsessions vs. compulsions
[07:30] What happens psychologically for something to become addictive
[10:00] Common behavioral addictions
[10:05] Gambling, exercise, work and social media addictions
[11:40] Reducing your addiction to your phone
[12:10] Carving out sacred time for yourself
[12:55] Experiencing separation / withdrawal from screens
[13:40] “Weekend tech sabbaticals”
[14:40] The impact of technology on younger generations
[15:10] Spikes in smartphone usage
[16:25] Social implications of technology dependency
[17:00] How the next generations will struggle socially
[17:35] Understanding the impact that negative verbage has on others
[18:10] Developing pro-social behavior
[19:00] Teenagers are struggling with communication skills
[19:20] Can parents can help mitigate the issue?
[19:40] Suggestions for a child’s interactions with devices
[20:40] Why it’s on parents to try to understand what their kids are going through
[22:00] Learning how to police yourself
[22:10] The app – “Moment”
[23:40] The things physically closest to us have the most impact on us
[25:10] Obsessed with getting more done in less time
[25:55] Living a life without metrics
[28:40] Addressing technology usage in the workplace
[29:40] What western Europe is doing
[30:40] Daimler employees in Germany
[32:00] People are much more engaged when they are not constantly using email
[32:40] Productivity implications of constant email engagement
[34:30] Businesses that benefit from keeping customers hooked on tech
[35:20] How far is too far?
[36:20] Consumers are becoming more aware and demanding change
[38:20] Pay less attention to the bottom line and more to the well-being of your customer
[39:10] The future of design ethicists
[41:10] Where to find more about Adam
[41:40] What Adam is working on now


Certainty in uncertain times – How to handle change in a strategic way that allows you to really take control of your life.

The new brand of mindfulness – Finding conventional ways to put mindfulness into practice in your everyday life.

The power of (your) space – Our environments have both physiological and psychological impacts on sense of self, with the power to shape our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

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