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Description: The most successful social media platforms serve a distinct purpose but also form addictive habits within their users. Instagram is the latest social media platform to exhibit this incredibly powerful tendency.


Date: April 22 2012

Yin asked not to be identified by her real name. A young addict in her mid-twenties, she lives in Palo Alto and, despite her addiction, attends Stanford University. She has all the composure and polish you’d expect of a student at a prestigious school, yet she succombs to her habit throughout the day. She can’t help it; she’s compulsively hooked.

Yin is an Instagram addict. The photo sharing social network, recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, captured the minds of Yin and 40 million others like her. The acquisition demonstrates the increasing importance — and immense value created by — habit-forming technologies. Of course, the Instagram purchase price was driven by a host of factors, including a rumored bidding war for the company. But at its core, Instagram is the latest example of an enterprising team, conversant in psychology as much as technology, that unleashed an addictive product on users who made it part of their daily routines. Read Rest of Story

Questions for discussion:

1. Why are internal triggers such powerful tools?
2. How does a minimalist interface foster an addictive social media habit?

8 Responses to “The Billion Dollar Mind Trick”

  1. Amby Okorafo

    I personally don’t think Yin is the only person suffering from this addictive behavior to instagram or any social networking website. I feel that social networking has taken over the world whether we like to admit it or not. Yes, there are some people out there who refuse to give into social media but i believe that at the end of the day, they will. It’s only a matter of time. The fact that Yin takes pictures all the time and posts them is not addictive behavior to me. After all, isn’t that what instagram is for? There is nothing wrong with doing that and I don’t believe Yin is suffering from anything addictive. If Yin is addicted to taking pictures and posting them on instagram, then so is the rest of the x billion populations in the world. The fact that instagram is a success shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. People are waiting around for the next best thing besides Facebook or twitter or any social networking site to come around and when it does, if implemented well, it becomes a success. I feel that this article highlights the victory of instagram and no one should call Yin an addict because she’s just like the rest of us!

  2. Keith Grier

    When people fall victim to appeal to emotion it has shown dividends in persausion of the thought process for sure and has proven time and time again to be effective in getting people to agree with your argument of any kind for the most part. This instagram is using this to exploit people and as i read the article it would seem they are able to do this with great ease. They have targeted the internal triggers of human beings such as thoughts, emotions and ideas, by way of emotion and pre-existing habits that people feel comfortable with and perhaps seek validity in there cognitive senses. The use of conversant in psychology and technology is proven and is used in all media today to push any agenda by using their ability to tap into society weakness, which is usually addictive personalities. In my opinion showing that we as a society are all becoming victims to not thinking “a minimalist society.” The bridging of emotions and thought patterns through the mastering of the “desire engine” and imposing these 4 components: the internal trigger, action by way of a click, variable rewards and committment are all used to create benefits of innovation within people that makes people feel that this is okay and therefore is not a problem. This is the same sensation as gamble, abusing prescription drugs as they are not illegal but is an addiction all the same, an addiction by defition is physical and/or psychological dependency on a psychoactive (mind-altering) substance (e.g., alcohol, narcotics, nicotine), defined as continued use despite knowing that the substance causes harm. The harm here in my opinion is lost time to cyberspace when society needs to be doing more active things with people, family and friends instead of wasteing time on the internet using personal time more effectively. Don’t get me wrong i do think that the internet is an awesome tool but there is to much time lost to it and it is true that this is the way society is going, that’s for sure, 40 plus million and counting user is the proof in the pudding.

  3. Maria Rana

    I would have to disagree with the opinion stated in this article about Yin suffering from some sort of addiction. I feel like we are making a mountain out of a molehill. I personally don’t see anything wrong with Yin using instagram and taking how many ever pictures. I feel like it is more of a phase than an addiction. It is like with anything new or popular when we get our hands on it for the first time, we want to explore it more. Thus if she likes the features of instagram and enjoys taking pictures, I don’t see why it could be a problem. I feel the same goes with apps like instagram and networking sites like facebook, twitter and linkedin for example. therefore, I personally feel that whether these are apps like instagram or social networking sites such as facebook or twitter they have more pros than cons. They are great to network with friends and family and also professionally- LinkedIn for example- has employer’s profiles which could come in handy for job hunting. Therefore, in my opinion, I support the social networking sites and apps like instagram and I don’t consider it an addiction at all.

  4. Salma H.

    At first when I thought about someone being addicted and “hooked” on an app such as Instagram, I couldn’t help but chuckle. But once I went through this article, it became for apparent that it could not be any more accurate! Nowadays, many of us heavily rely on social media outlets and fail to realize our level on dependence on them. This dependence arises from the internal triggers that we feel within us. In the beginning it starts off as an innocent hobby that is done every now and then, but after repeated use, this so called ‘hobby’ spirals out of control. Internal triggers make people believe that they NEED to follow through with something, and if they don’t they will be left feeling incomplete and if there is something wrong. This is seen very often when someone receives a text message and feels an instant urge to check their phone. These triggers are overwhelmingly powerful tools because of the psychological appeal embedded within them. The minimalist interface adds pressure on to these triggers, making the addiction more serious. The user friendly options are efficient ways that help the efficient interactions with this app. With a click of a couple buttons, a masterpiece can be created and shared within minutes! When these finished pictures are shared, people are able to give feedback which also is a component of the addiction factor. People strive for the acceptance of others, and what better way to achieve that acceptance than continual trial through such an app?!

  5. Veronica

    I remember when the application Draw Something came out last semester and I couldn’t seem to get off of it. My friends and I would joke about how we were addicted to it but honestly a lot of time was spent drawing ridiculous pictures with thirty friends repeatdly throughout the day when my time could have and should have been better used elsewhere. Well apparently I wasn’t the only one is divulged themselves into the app as it was sold for $180 million at only six weeks old.

    I think smartphones are an addiction in and of themselves. Apple markets more than just smartphones but the company’s worth $500 billion, I think that says something. I can’t leave the house without my iPhone – or I feel like I’m running around in my birthday suit. We go to our Facebook or Twitter to tell the world what’s happening, how we’re feeling or what important stuff is happening – because it’s not official until it’s on Facebook… and then we have several hundred other apps for whatever other mood we might be feeling. Talk about dependancy, addiction and internal triggers. Technology, apps, laptops, ipads, tablets, all of it, they’re all game changers, they all have there little unique oddities that rope us in and then sell for millions.

  6. Reply

    I think that internal triggers are such powerful tools because you can’t see, touch, or hear. It is NOT a sensory stimuli. It is a habit and your mind set changes; it becomes a part of your desire. I think that internal triggers are heavier addictions than external triggers. Also, not only instagram, but facebook, twitter, and any kinds of social media profiles target human’s internal triggers. I mean target by how those social media profile companies keep their customers (just like me or Yin in the story) for a long time. All of these social media profiles share ideas, thoughts, and emotions. I personally am also addicted checking Facebook very often. It’s not that I have a purpose of getting on, it is just a habit of checking if there is any new feeds, comments, or updates that I might have missed. I get frustrated when I do not have an access to Facebook sometimes. Your mind is constantly and unconsciously on Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, etc) because of the internal triggers. I sometimes think that those social media profile companies might have designed specifically for people to easily attach their emotions to it.

  7. Mattie E

    This article really spoke to me, mostly because I am also an Instagram addict. In fact, when I was reading this article, all I wanted to do was check my Instagram feed to see if anyone had “liked” my most current picture of my new dress. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s such an addicting app! The article mentioned internal and external triggers, which seemed to describe Instagram perfectly. Much like Yin, when I see something “cool”, I HAVE to take a picture of it and put it on Instagram (and then on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) because of course all my friends will want to see it! I don’t even have to see an ad for Instagram, and it doesn’t have to be brought up in a conversation. To me, a cool picture= Instagram. This is absolutely ridiculous, but smartphone technology has become such a large part of everyday life for billions of people.

    I think that the minimalist interface is one of the most important reasons for Instagram’s success. I literally have to choose my picture, choose the tone for the picutre, and voila! A picture worthy of a magazine cover (well not really, but that is one of the most alluring things about Instagram. It makes any picture look like a professional took it). I think Facebook would be smart to avoid toying with the interface of Instagram, because this is the reason over 40 million technology addicts log on every day.

  8. Debbie Kennedy

    This was an interesting article. I had no clue what this was going to talk about, but took a stab at learning about something I didn’t have any clue about. I don’t let things like this instagram get too deeply into my life. I am not computer savy, but I use whatever gets the job done. I just don’t get it though, meaning how people can let something like this instagram control such a large part of their life. I can see how they get you started though. It has been proven by appealing to emotions is powerful, but short lived. Many of these apps are driven to give rise to appeal to emotion. Because they are short lived people seek that same emotion; therefore, they go back to use the app thus producing a habit.

    It’s like any social media out there, contact with people. I think in a society where there is little contact people anymore and as soon as something like facebook or this instagram comes into play they are attracted to it. We have too little contact anymore with each other and more with apps etc. We instantly get addicted because we as people miss the interaction we would normally get. I can see why people get addicted to this kind of stuff though. It triggers emotion in our minds and we want this same emotion again and again. It fosters this social media habit by playing with your emotions. I will definitely google more on this topic and read as much as I can.

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