Monday, October 7, 2019

Indistractable: Book Review

 Indistractable, by Nir Eyal, is an instruction manual, teaching us how to make healthy choices with our attention and activities, in the midst of the many addictive distractions of the internet age.

It is a good book,  but most of  its content could be acquired through a brief surfing of the net.

Eyal wrote another book in 2014 called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Ironically, this earlier book uses his knowledge of persuasion and behavioural psychology to foster the very addictive distractions that Indistractable tries to rescue us from.  In some ways I guess we could compare that to the management of a casino organizing its own addiction treatment program for customers.

The book itself is well-written, and its format is an example of how to keep a reader engaged: the chapters are short, the language is simple and clear, and the main points are summarized at the end of each chapter, then once again at the end of the book.  There is even material provided to get started on a CBT-style program to become "indistractable."  The "indistractable" language is based, I'm sure, on a marketing idea of encouraging an identity-based slogan as a motivational tool.  If one were to wear a t-shirt with the "indistractable" logo it might help motivationally.

The book itself is a product, and I suspect that it will lead to profits for the author.

Yet, the ideas contained within are useful, and worth knowing about.  Aside from simple behavioural techniques (e.g. decluttering your home screen, scheduling in advance, etc.) there is appropriate attention given to identifying the emotions accompanying distracted behaviour, and to identifying core values (e.g. of being a good parent or a good friend) as a primary motivating force to choose relationships or meaningful work rather than surfing Twitter, playing a distracting video game,  or having a text conversation.

This is another example of how therapists or physicians can learn important lessons from people who have expertise in marketing.  It often requires an inspiring persuasive message to help someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety, addictions, or other problems to make positive, sustained engagements with meaningful life change.