The Habit Loop: Lessons in Social Media from Nir Eyal

October 2, 2018
October 2, 2018 kwaku Abedi

The Habit Loop: Lessons in Social Media from Nir Eyal

Social media companies deserve credit.

They have been able to capture our imaginations and has got us hooked unto the platform for hours on end. For a lot of people, launching a social media app when they have free time is a no brainer.

After spending hours on the platform, we later justify the time waste as a moment we took to be connected.

In his book “Hooked: How Great Companies build habit forming product” Nir Eyal listed 4 key attributes companies that are leaders in customer attention and experience have in common.

The book is written based on his experience in the video gaming and the advertising industries which we have been able to hold peoples attention for a long time.  Knowing these four attributes is relevant because it helps us understand why social media takes significant amounts of time out of our day and how we only notice this after the fact.



What makes you to go on social media? It is usually as a result of being bored, tired, not having much to do. So, you log on just to stay in the loop. Launching the Facebook app on your phone takes seconds and does not require any mental energy.

This is how Social media wins because it doesn’t mentally stimulate us, much like watching TV. Although with social media, we can somehow justify our actions by claiming we’re staying in touch and there is some level of engagement.

The triggers that causes us to log on to social media as Nir noted are associated with negative emotions and feelings. Boredom, feelings of unproductivity, despair etc. so, we log on for mental relief and to passively engage our minds



Action is where we initiate the process, of launching an app, logging on and engaging with the content. One psychological phenom that social media companies have used and serves them well to this day is the “Feed” which is an aggregation of the updated content from our friends and we see.

The top 3 social media sites I visit often which are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has a variation of the feed. Some psychologists have equated the news feed to pulling the jackpot handle at the casino which makes is highly addictive.  We keep refreshing our feed to get new and fresh content

And for every visit, every interaction and every “like” we give to a page, we give a lot more information about us, our habits, our desires, our wants and dreams to these companies, who in turn take this data to create more relevant newsfeeds. The creation of relevant news feeds means that you will engage with the content for longer and the longer you stay on social media better they’re able to predict what you would like which makes it a continual loop.




The reward for using social media is the hit of dopamine we all get for the “likes” and positive comments we’ve receive on our posts leading us to check for more positive affirmations. These positive affirmations become so much ingrained in our brains that we crave them all the time. At its extreme, people delete certain social media posts because it didn’t receive many “likes” and comments as they were expected.

There are negative rewards or connotation for seeking self-indulgence that social media helps in propagating which is this feeling of envy, social anxiety or jealousy. These emotions are potentially impactful than the negative emotions. Especially on social media channels where visual content is much more prominent such as Instagram and Facebook.

These negative emotions arise as a result of the self-comparison with our peers that is going through our subconscious. This social comparison or scale exists in our brains whether we admit it or not.  Hence in our lowest moments, seeing others happy with their careers, sharing beautiful vacation/holiday photos and posting about their wonderful family lives makes us feel even worse.


The more we use social media, the more emotionally invested we become in it. The emotional investment can also be in the form of being obsessed with the lives of our peers and friends. Constantly checking social media to see what they’re up to. Sometimes even at the risk of living our own lives.

The more we scrutinize and become emotionally involved with the lives of others, the more feelings of anxiety and envy deepens which becomes a never-ending loop.


The products and services that we’re obsessed have these attributes and explains why we like them so much. Therefore, if you find yourself addicted to social media, note that theses things have been highly designed to make you addicted.

Knowledge is power and it is imperative find how you can engineer these into your products and services to better make your product a habit for your consumers.

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kwaku Abedi

Kwaku Abedi is Marketing, Public Relations & Digital Enthusiast

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