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social media Tech Tuesday

Why is Snapchat addictive?

Tech Tuesday question from Aaron R. 

Snapchat. I feel like I am using it too much. I’m not worried about Snapchat not really deleting my pictures. I just feel that I’m using Snapchat to seek something else. I feel bad when I have all these stories and it looks like I am bragging but everybody does it so I think it’s okay. I Snapchat everything and I wish I could stop.

You’ve made a great observation, Aaron. What you are talking about is important for anyone that uses any app, not just Snapchat.

Sometimes we all need to take a step back and remind ourselves that we own the phone, the phone does not own us. 

Why is Snapchat so addictive?

Long story short, the app is designed to trigger a response in your brain that makes it so that you check the app without even thinking about it. (It’s not just Snapchat, virtually every app does this.)

Any time you get a new snap or scroll through stories or send a snap, your brain’s reward system is triggered. Getting a message or like or even sending a message feels so good at a sub-conscious that your brain just can’t get enough… kind of like your favorite candy… you don’t know why you ate the whole bag, but you did.

I first wrote about dopamine and interrupting the loop in 2012 in this post, Notifications are of the Devil, please take a few minutes to read that.

With something like Snapchat, which often might include flirtatious or even sexual content, it kind of “double triggers” your brain. You have the dopamine effect found in receiving any type of notification PLUS you have the normal hormonal response found in any potential sexual encounter. It doesn’t matter if you’re 13 or 39 or 99… if something sexual might happen, your brain will give it your full attention.

What can I do to make Snapchat less addictive?

I’m not a Snapchat user, but I do use other apps that are equally addictive. (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YikYak, etc.) Here’s how I take control of my usage… well, at least get better control of my usage:

  • Disable push notificationsHere’s how to do that for Snapchat.
  • Schedule Do Not Disturb to block out hours where you need to concentrate (work, school, sleep) – Here’s how to do that for iPhone and Android.
  • Only use your phone in public spaces of your life – Over the last 20 years of working with individuals and families I’ve learned that most addiction problems occur when internet connected devices are used in private. (Bedrooms, basements, bathrooms, etc.) No one sets out to get addicted to an app, online gambling, porn, etc… but it happens when we use the device in isolation for long periods of time. If you form a habit that you’re not going to use the device in private, you’ll eliminate most internet-related addiction problems.

Have a tech related question? Drop me a note on my contact form or send in your question via the form on the sidebar of my blog.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

5 replies on “Why is Snapchat addictive?”

You shouldn’t get a Snapchat account, because it’s not that important. Trust me, you’ll regret making an account and becoming addicted. Your parents have your best interest in mind.
Listen to them, don’t become a mindless nomophobic zombie.

Honestly, I wanted one too. But after I saw how addicted my friends were, it made me re-think it. It’s better to get outside and go do something. Snapchat is degrading our social skills and it’s also not good. There’s a higher suicide rate and depression/anxiety rate in teens that use apps like Snapchat. It seems so appealing, but believe me, you won’t want to get sucked into your phone like everyone else. It’s really NOT good for you or your brain 😉

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