Watch: Addicted to Your Devices?

About two years ago, some participants in my Science of Willpower course started to name “technology addiction” as their main willpower challenge. It’s only accelerated since then, as we’ve fallen more fully in love with our devices.

Last week I stopped by the Toronto studios of the CBC to give advice about how to gain more willpower over the siren songs of your cellphone, email, Facebook, or whatever tech-drug leaves you never satisfied but always seeking your next fix.

Watch the video below. You can also listen to the full radio interview I did with Spark host Nora Young here. Or check out two articles on this topic from the New York Times, which includes my comments as well as other experts and leaders in the tech world: The Workplace Benefits of Being Out of Touch and Silicon Valley Worries About Addiction to Devices.

Kelly McGonigal on Spark from Ryan Couldrey on Vimeo.


Leave a Comment

  1. Wow, interesting stuff. I’ve been reading up on Roy Baumeister and Walter Mischel and their landmark studies on “self-control” and “willpower”…but, in this interview, you really expressed it more clearly than than any other expert I’ve heard in regards to self-regulation.

    Great stuff, Kelly!

    I think you nailed it when you said that our addiction to technology is mindless: Like you said, we don’t even realize that we’re “subconsciously” logging on to our Gmail for the 5th time in the last half hour. And, I totally relate with what you said about the “itch” that seems to be only relieved by compulsively checking our smart phones.

    Add to that the excess of information and distractions we have now in the information age, and we have REALLY GOT to start setting up those barriers you talk of.

    I want to let you know I just tweeted this to my audience. Well spoken


    Eric Wang, Pharm.D. Candidate 2012

  2. Technololgy may be somewhat addictive, but, new technoogy such as smartphones/tab computers can also afford new solutions to old problems of “everyday” addiction such as addiction to tobacco. There is a whole new genration of smartphone apps dedicated to smoking cessation that offer new alternatives to the traditional approaches that usually employ Nicotine Replacement Therapy or pharmaceutical drugs. My own mobile app, “Quit Smoking, Start Now,” utilizes some key tenets of the new science of willpower that Kelly McGonigal promotes in her book, and, is (in my opinion), the most powerful and the most comprehensive smoking cessation app available today, incorporating unique features not found anywhere else. More info on the app can be found on our website,

  3. Excellent Kelly, and very importantI

    I believe in not too distant future addiction to devices will cause much more serious harm to the society, than addiction to drugs.

    The reason… many more of us are using devices than drugs.

    Also the drugs we can reject, but devices are becoming integral part of life, without which we cannot function in the society. It’s a catch 22 situation.

  4. Thank you Kelly for enlightening on tech addiction plaguing many of us. I personally feel its important to accept that checking one’s mail inbox, sms or facebook too often is an addiction because we usually associate the perception of addiction with smoking, drinking , playing video games etc leaving these important common daily activities.

    Your lesson on being first self-aware to boost willpower in order to get rid of addiction is a remarkable idea. As a facebook addict I wasted long hours just doing nothing but checking others profiles, images and chatting without any purpose with not-so-well-known people triggered by the temptation of checking new posts. Once I used to login in order to find new post I got fully indulged in doing such nonsense activities. The frequency of such login was 4-5 times in one hour or even more than that when I used to be stressed.It was drastically hampering my studies and well being. Once I recognized its a an addiction it became very easy for me deactivate my profile for some months and as a reward I did well in the last semester exam.

    I don’t understand when I deactivate my profile I can keep my self away from facebook for months loging in not even for a single time in that period of time and I can do it quite easily without much boosting my WON’TPOWER. But on the other hand if I reactivate my profile after some months (its important to keep in touch with some of my seniors and others for academic reasons) I easily get back into the old habit which again forces me to deactivate my profile. Then I feel relaxed, can focus better and get good results in my work. I am unable to understand why just ‘deactivating’ works so well for me because ‘reactivating’ is nothing but the usual loging in? If I don’t deactivate my profile why I can’t stay away from facebook for months. Please can anyone help me to get the answer of this question baffling me for long time?

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