How to be “indistractable” with Nir Eyal

Product Hunt Radio

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54:16

Sept. 10, 2019, 9 p.m.

On this episode Ryan is joined by a friend, writer, and student of human psychology, Nir Eyal. I’ve learned so much from his writing over the years. He has an incredible ability to synthesize complex ideas and studies into actionable steps people can use to build more engaging products and a healthier life. Ryan actually helped him with his first bestselling book,* Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products*, back in 2012, before Product Hunt started.

This week he published his second book, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. The timing of its release is more relevant than ever as people are increasingly seeking a healthier relationship with their smartphones, wearables, and tech in general.

In this episode they talk about...

The change in attitude towards tech over the past several years

“Back then people thought Zuckerberg and the Twitter guys and the Google guys just got lucky and stumbled onto something. We had to convince people that they knew what makes you click and what makes you tick better than you do yourself. Now, that’s a foregone conclusion. In fact, I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way.”

Nir explains the shift in the perception of tech in general since he wrote his first book, Hooked, to now. He says that there has always been a level of skepticism in Silicon Valley, which is generally a good thing, but that he fears people are heading towards being too cynical and having a fixed mindset towards the tech industry and its products.

How to make sure your product development process is ethical

““I think it’s important that product designers have a way to tap the brakes and ask, ‘is what we’re doing okay? Does this cross an ethical line?’”

He talks about searching for an ethical framework that ensures that the products one creates are not causing harm to the user. He says that he went from the (former) Google motto “don’t be evil” to the Golden Rule to what the lawyers recommended to get to his formulation of the “regret test.” He explains exactly how you can use it at your company.

A regret test asks ‘would the user do the thing we have designed for them to do, if they knew everything we do?’”

Whether the government should or should not get involved in regulating tech

They talk about some of the proposed regulations that are floating around the news these days, and Nir explains why they are well-intentioned but unlikely to make a real difference. He points out that the problem is the “fear-industrial complex” that accompanies any new tech or media. He says that to say that people lack any agency to pull themselves away from tech is insulting and points out that over fifty years ago, people were using the exact same words to describe the effects of comic books.

The true impact of tech on your brain

“Why is scrolling on Twitter somehow morally inferior to watching Fox News? To me they are equally divisive, equally potentially toxic, and can equally be abused by people who go overboard. Why do we only apply the standard to new technology? Because it’s an easy target.”

Nir says that it’s important not to get fixated on the tech, but rather the end result of using that tech. He points out that both Snapchat and Duolingo use streaks, but to very different ends. He says that he is neither a proponent of nor apologist for tech and that not all distractions are created equal."

The strategies he uses to ensure he doesn’t get distracted

“The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. We have to plan ahead and take steps in advance to make sure you do whatever it is you want to do in life.”

He explains what his nightly routine is, how it has enabled him to live a better life, and how he uses certain pieces of tech to keep himself away from other, less useful tech. He tells the story of buying a twelve dollar flip phone from Alibaba and why, like crash diets, digital detoxes don’t end up working.

Bonus Content: Aba’s Community Podcast

Abadesi recently hosted a Periscope session where she asked the community to chime in on what their favorite products are and why. Make sure to follow us on social to participate in the next session, and you could make it into the podcast!

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. 😸