These are the sneaky ways apps like Instagram, Facebook, Tinder lure you in and get you 'addicted'

Get the Full StoryShayanne Gal Business Insider

If you own a smartphone, you've likely experienced the feeling: you've got a few moments of downtime so you take out your phone to see what's new.

Maybe you feel an urge to see what your friends are up to, a need to connect to other people. Maybe you want to squeeze in an extra bit of reading or language-learning or mate-finding or game-playing.

Does this mean you are addicted to your smartphone? Not necessarily. There are technical definitions of addiction that don't apply to excessive smartphone use. And using apps on your smartphone is often just a form of wasting time. Before smartphones, you'd likely have wasted time some other way. In fact, Jonathan Kay, chief operating officer of app analytics firm Apptopia, has a term for it: "displaced time."

"I think what's happening is that people are displacing a lot of time that they would spend on TV and spending it on their phones," Kay told Business Insider. "It's not an added time it's a displaced time from one medium to another."

But there are some key differences about spending our spare time using our phones, rather than other mediums. For one, they're full of content we ve chosen for ourselves, rather than content that's chosen for us, like a sitcom on TV, and that can make our phones more enticing, Kay believes.

For another, app makers are using deliberate techniques to attract your attention. They aren't simply relying on you to come to them whenever you have downtime.

"I think people want to be sucked in," Kay said. "Then it becomes a game of who can be more clever at grabbing that attention."

And some app makers use techniques proven to be very successful at luring us in.

Thanks to input from app experts, research on the topic and our own app use, we've identified the tactics used by some of the most popular smartphone apps on the planet to grab your attention. Some of these techniques clearly serve no purpose other than to manipulate your behavior, whereas others are not necessarily insidious and are part of what make the product useful.

But they all have the common goal of reeling you in and holding your attention.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it highlights specific tactics used by specific apps across several categories. Take a look:Instagram sends dozens of push notifications each week and uses "Stories" to attract you

Shayanne Gal Business Insider

Out of every app out there, Instagram has got to be one of the most addicting.

There are several reasons you can get hooked on Instagram: the habit-forming nature of taking pictures and videos, the immediate payoff of pretty filters, and the intimacy of building a social network.

But Instagram has its own tactics to keep you engaged.

If you've enabled push notifications on Instagram, you likely receive a message about any number of things: someone's first Story on Instagram, when a Facebook friend has joined the platform, and when one of the people you follow on Instagram is filming live video on the platform.

You can customize and limit these notifications. But it takes some digging through your settings, and the default is to notify you about everything.

The simple fact is that push notifications, though obvious, actually work. According to research from mobile analytics firm Urban Airship, sending out weekly push notifications can double user retention on iOS devices and have 6-fold increase on Android devices.

"Push notifications are the first line of this strategy," Randy Nelson, an analyst for app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, told Business Insider. "They address you directly and say, 'Hey, come back to the app.' It's the most overt thing these apps do, and it's integral to the process of re-engaging users."

Shayanne Gal Business Insider

Instagram has a multitude of other ways to grab your attention, most notably within Instagram Stories.

When Stories was originally introduced in August 2016, it was widely considered a copycat of Snapchat's version, also called Stories. But Instagram Stories eclipsed Snapchat in just one year, and it's not hard to see why.

Instagram Stories contain fun face filters, animations, and stickers that can be customized to your location or current temperature. They're a great time-waster on their own.

But it's the way Instagram encourages you to watch Stories at every turn that makes them addicting. Stories are the first thing you see when you open the app they're housed at the top of the screen but they also periodically show up in the middle of scrolling through your feed, like in the image above.

And once you're watching one person's Story, you're automatically shepherded into the next person's Story without ever even leaving the interface. If you don't manually swipe or "X" out of Stories, you could end up watching them for minutes on end.

Twitter uses a psychological trick to lure you in the same one used in slot machines.

Shayanne Gal Business Insider

One of the most popular methods used by apps and platforms to keep your attention wasn't invented by techies at all. It's a psychological tool often employed in casinos called a "variable ratio schedule."

The concept refers to when an action is rewarded, but at various times. The user doesn't know when they'll be rewarded, just that they will be and in no particular pattern. That's what slot machines do. Each time you pull the lever, you may win a small payout, the giant jackpot or no reward at all.

As Tristan Harris points out, many apps are no different. Harris, who spent three years working at Google as a "design ethicist," frequently writes about the topic of smartphone addiction and started a non-profit dedicated to the subject. In a 2016 essay, Harris likens the "variable ratio schedule" concept the slot machine method to a tactic several apps also employ.

When you swipe your finger downward on Twitter, for example, a spinning wheel indicates that the app is loading more content. You don't know what you're getting, but you're hoping to see something new and something that interests you. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't.

See the rest of the story at Business InsiderSee Also:Confessions of a screen addict: I wake up at 2 a.m. every morning to use my phone and I'm a little worriedFacebook's user growth is dwindling especially among young people31 beautiful photos of traditional wedding dresses from around the worldSEE ALSO: Confessions of a screen addict I wake up at 2 a.m. every morning to use my phone and I'm a little worried

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