Now some of these modern addictions have been around for awhile, but we’re noticing more prominence in the 21st century.
This list doesn’t include your typical addictions like alcohol, drugs, and gambling. We know those are bad, they’ve been around for many years, and there is adequate support when people fall under the trap of those particular addictions.
I’m talking about this topic because, as a marketer with over ten years of experience manipulating people into buying things, I’ve realized that addiction is a marketer’s dream outcome. It’s also a reason why many people hate marketers, albeit indirectly. Usually the company CEO is at the brunt of any public criticism.
Wouldn’t you want someone to be addicted to shopping on your business’ website? That’s literally my job, to get those eyeballs tracking your way. As a result, you can call me evil. I admit to the guilt and shame.
Now let’s get started. I’ll include some honourable mentions at the end, because you could find an infinite amount of things to be addicted to. These are the ten problematic addictions nobody talks about.
1. Online dating apps
The “swipe right” feature, invented by the smart team at Tinder, has resulted in a disastrous modern dating world where women have the world at their fingertips, while men now compete with the world. It used to be that you could connect with someone in your city of residence and that was the main option among few. Not anymore. You can now venture to other countries and find that suitable mate, right from your bedroom.
This is the birth of today’s addictive hookup culture. If you aren’t perfect, man or woman, then you are on the replacement line. We can blame a few business peeps and web developers for putting this together, then we can blame the marketers for spreading this across the masses.
If you are a woman looking for a relationship today, your best bet is now a mobile app. For men? Well, they need to become men to even stand a chance.
Nobody is talking about this addiction to online dating apps, yet we are seeing generations of teens, twentysomethings, and all ages beyond, just swiping away on their phones while they sit on the toilet during a work bathroom break. People are miserable because, when they finally go on a date, it’s never good enough. There’s always more on the app, like a crack addict looking for a bigger hit.
People will never be happy because they haven’t learned how to settle. Sure, many people are finding true love through the apps and getting married. Then, many more are getting divorced or jumping from date to date in frustration.
Are the standards for all sexes so warped now? Does anyone know what they really want anymore? For those who have figured it out and escaped the apps, kudos to them. Staying off the apps is the next battle.
Any streaming services these days, whether it be Netflix, YouTube, or Twitch, have an autoplay feature, designed by marketers to keep you watching endless content for hours on end. People can’t even watch movies anymore because attention spans are so damaged from all the streaming options. In order to avoid any controversy, we have “Netflix and chill”. Let’s pair a bad thing with a good thing to avoid any controversy. You could waste away your entire life because there is no regulation on content consumption.
Nobody talks about streaming as an addiction because it can be a nice escape from reality. Today’s reality for most people sucks, so they welcome the opportunity to get away from it, even if it’s 8+ hours of endless content marathons. At least a movie ends at around two hours, at which point you have to contemplate life’s next decision.
I compare streaming to that of a casino slot machine. Before you know it, you’ve spent the whole day there, just throwing life away to get any kind of escapist dopamine fix.
The real solution is to cancel or delete your streaming subscriptions. There is no Netflix Anonymous, but maybe you just have to attend those sessions with alcoholics if you need a rude awakening.
3. TikTok/short-form media consumption
The vertical scroll of video content is relatively new to the mainstream. Ever since that Vine app, people have been craving short form content. TikTok has really nailed the approach, designing an app which really shouldn’t exist in the real world. It’s just too good, and kids are hooked. YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have piled on with their own vertical spins on TikTok. Social media is a cesspool of this garbage content, and nobody has an answer.
Talk to any Gen Z peep today and you’ll find them obsessing over the TikTok app. This addiction is really an extension of streaming, but designed for a mobile-first younger generation.
Once again, we have no true regulation on vertical video content, and the content is running rampant. We still don’t fully understand the long-term effects of these technological inventions, but the anecdotal evidence is bleak, with concerns around the health of these young consumers.
Walk along the streets and you’ll likely find someone with headphones on, listening to that latest podcast episode. People are into this long-form medium as a way to pass the time. Many podcasters are releasing 3+ hour content on a weekly basis, sometimes more, allowing consumers to essentially distract themselves continuously.
Many people think this is a healthy addiction because you can download something educational and learn this way. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of content out there, which is free, as well as negative or outrageous. It’s once again an unregulated escape from reality, on a never-ending loop.
Vaping has become a socially acceptable replacement to smoking. Whoever figured out the marketing of vapes or e-cigarettes should definitely be heading to hell. Kids are being warped into thinking that a vape is a healthy habit, and it’s absolutely criminal. Nobody talks about it because we’re all happy it isn’t heroine.
6. ASMR videos
Instead of falling asleep in silence, anxious people are becoming dependent on ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) content to get proper rest. This is low-grade euphoria as a coping mechanism for whatever struggles people may face in the real world. I noticed ASMR as an addiction once I started creating this kind of content on my YouTube channel. People would demand more, depending on me to help them sleep.
Nobody talks about this as an addiction because it solves an underlying problem: people are more stressed, anxious, and overthinking than ever before, and this is the band-aid solution! Remember when people had to fall asleep without drowning their thoughts? Now you can take a sleeping pill or listen to ASMR for a good night’s sleep.
7. Mobile games
Candy Crush, anyone? Remember Angry Birds? Now that everyone has a smartphone, games developers are investing billions (trillions?) to keep you hooked and incentivized.
I think video game addictions in general have been a problem since the late 20th century, yet nobody cares! We have countless men wasting their lives on World of Warcraft when they could be changing the world for the better. I used to be a Grand Theft Auto addict, so I know what that’s like. Now we have countless men, women, and children playing the next Tetris on their phones and tablets, even while waiting in line at Starbucks. Doesn’t anyone see this as a problem?
8. Online advertising as an ad buyer
On almost every social media site, you can start buying ads and finally drive revenues up for your business, yay! Online advertising is a multi-billion dollar business for all of these social media sites, and they depend on you to keep spending. I’ve seen countless small businesses go out of business because they thought they could spend their way to success. Facebook will promise you success in just a few months, but it’s never really guaranteed. You could have a terrible product, or a broken checkout system, or poor product-market fit with your audience. There could be many reasons, and it’s never a precise science to land online sales.
I always suggest people find their top 50 clients and reach out to them instead of this whole online ads crapshoot. Odds are, if you can’t get your main clients to buy, why would Average Joe? It’s free to send a couple of DMs or emails to the brands that actually matter, and you would end up saving thousands in experimentation instead.
Most people never listen to me and proceed to waste tons of money, because it’s “quicker”. There is no such thing as getting rich quick.
Nobody talks about online advertising as a problematic addiction because social media is only interested in communicating the success stories (“I made $10 million last month in dropshipping”). This is exactly what casinos do with false promises. You just have to make your own judgement call when assessing the validity of online ads.
9. Social media forums
Real life is hard. People are turning to Reddit, Discord servers, and other niche online forums to satisfy their social connections with others. These forums are deeper than your standard social media apps, allowing for people to get into discussions they never would have had in real life. As people are becoming poorer real-life communicators, the forums become a sort of addiction for socialization.
Nobody talks about this because apparently we haven’t had enough mass murders yet to look into these forums. There are negative conversations happening in social media, and it’s fuel for the fire. We really need to encourage real life connections again, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon when AR/VR is about to be the next thing.
10. Energy drinks
As long as the child has a maximum of one can per day, it’s safe. Really?! Kids are drinking this caffeinated chemical beverage to stay up and study. I saw some people drinking Red Bulls in my university years, but now I’m seeing more varieties everywhere.
Nobody talks about this because, like Coca-Cola, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Some brands are even claiming health benefits and vitamins as ingredients to mask the bad contents.
Let’s get into the honourable mentions:
Junk food has been a problem for decades, and there are more varieties of junk than ever before. Doesn’t anyone question the ingredients of Twinkies? Why are they so good?! What about Doritos? All of the world’s health problems could be solved by banning junk food. It has no place in society. Nobody talks about this because governments make money off corporate taxes from junk food companies. No point in regulating this!
Fentanyl is the “it” drug of choice these days. I didn’t include it on the top ten list because it’s a drug and all drugs are just terrible and we all know it, plain and simple. Ever since Marijuana was legalized, kids are gravitating to something more cool. There is a massive opioid crisis without any real solution in sight. Nobody talks about Fentanyl because it needs to spread a little more before anyone will care.
Coffee is just plain addictive, as anyone in a morning Starbucks line-up can tell you. I don’t understand why people are claiming caffeine to be healthy when it literally becomes a dependency for so many. We’ve been talking about this one for years, but never really suggesting it as problematic. Well, when people depend on coffee to get home safely, that’s a problem. We now have iced and cold brew varieties to keep you drinking on those warm Summer days yum.
Now it’s not all doom and gloom with these modern addictions. I’d like to outline some solutions here, to finish things on a few positive notes.
Internet, mobile applications, and social media need restrictions well into someone’s twenties. You can’t be introducing technology to kids so early. Controversial, but deal with it.
Schools need to be teaching about modern addictions, like we did for cigarettes in schools. Teach about the dangers of what will happen when you go on TikTok (Depression! Death! Blindness!).
Parents need to be held responsible. Let’s be honest: the parents need to be good role models. It starts with them talking to their kids for once, rather than shoving phones in front of them.
Marketers need to be conscious of what it is they’re pushing out into the world. Guilty as charged! Some people need a job and can’t really take a stand on this. If you are a marketer, ask yourself if what you’re doing is ethical, and see if you can communicate the truth instead. Less exploitation and more helpfulness.