In 2014, Nir Eyal wrote “Hooked: How to Building Habit-Forming Products”, which became a Silicon Valley industry standard on how to build enthralling smartphone apps which hook users and cause them to spend an endless amount of time on such apps.

Some have decried the addiction to the mobile phone as being very unhealthy, while others have gone so far as to problematise tech as a low-status behaviour, similar to smoking.

Now in October 2019, Eyal has released a new bestseller called “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life”. Eyal has claimed that his guide seeks to free people from an addiction they never had in the first place. He believes that the culture of distraction arises because we slough off personal responsibility and thus we are called to take responsibility over our lives once again.

Read the full article on The New York Times: Addicted to Screens? That’s Really a You Problem


Critics of Eyal’s distraction-busting bestseller are arguing that he is flipping his position. They claim that while he initially got us hooked onto the smartphone apps, he is now trying to sell us the cure, which is akin to the drug peddler attempting to sell us the cure after we have been hooked on the drugs.

However, the author believes that he is not back-pedaling. Rather, he defends his latest work by stating that it was not his hook tactics that caused the addiction but the users themselves. Using the language of addiction allowed tech users to normalise the amount of time they were spending on apps.

He proposes that the answer to minimising our tech distractions and to prevent it from taking over our lives is to understand why we are distracting ourselves in the first place. Perhaps, we take out our phones while we are queuing up because there is a fear of boredom and of emptiness? Or perhaps we use them at social gatherings because we are uncomfortable with being with others or by ourselves?

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. Do you feel like you are addicted to your smartphones? Why or why not?
  2. Why do you think people try to distract themselves? Is distraction always a bad thing?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘enthrall’: to hold spellbound; to hold in or reduce to slavery
  2. ‘slough’ (in relation to responsibility): shed, cast off