How do Silicon Valley tech gurus design a successful app, an app that will hook consumers and then keep them hooked so they keep coming back to the app? Some app designers call this process “captology,” or the art of capturing people’s attention and making it hard for them to escape. In his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Product, Nir Eyal, a game designer and professor at Stanford, explains why applications like Facebook are so effective. A successful app, he writes, creates a “persistent routine” or behavioral loop. The app both triggers a need and provides the momentary solution to it.
Eyal writes: “Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation. Gradually, these bonds cement into a habit as users turn to your product when experiencing certain internal triggers.”
This is an apt description of sin. We feel some need in our lives and we turn to a sinful behavior to meet that need. Once we surrender to this behavior, it becomes a habit, and as a result, we’re hooked.
This is the insidious nature of idolatry. We look to idols like sex, money and power to fill some need in our lives. We click on a pornographic website or chase after dollars or search for ways to increase our clout, thinking that these behaviors will fill a vacuum in our lives. Then, these behaviors become habits that are so ingrained, we are addicted to our counterfeit gods. The pathetic thing is that none of these gods can deliver. In fact, pursuing these idols only leaves us empty and frustrated and impotent and lost. The siren call of these false gods lures us into lives that are empty and useless and toxic.
The good news is that God offers freedom from our idols! Christ delivers us from our slavery to mirages that can never satisfy and inevitably reduce us to hollow shells. Idols are defeated not by being removed but by being replaced. We learn to overcome by replacing our worship of idols with the worship of Christ! This is where real victory is won!