Twitch CEO’s advice for tech addicts is bad news for those who love attention-seeking apps like Facebook and Instagram

Twitch CEO’s advice for tech addicts is bad news for those who love attention-seeking apps like Facebook and Instagram

Emmett Shear says watching something for two hours in a row is a lot better than checking an app multiple times within a two-hour period

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People watch the “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” video game trailer at the Activision booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, in Los Angeles.
Photo: AP

If you are seeking tips on how to overcome a tech addiction, the answer from the world’s biggest game streaming site might sound a bit counter-intuitive.

For Emmett Shear, chief executive of San Francisco-based Twitch, Amazon.com’s live streaming site aimed at gamers, watching something for two hours in a row is a lot better than checking an app multiple times within a two-hour period.

“The way that a lot of mobile apps work is this dopamine rush,” Shear said in an interview with technology news title Recode, which published the full transcript last week. “Push notify, get a nugget of new information, open News Feed. Twitch is just not that. And so, I think we suffer less from a lot of the addiction, ‘Gotta press the button 19 times a day’ kind of interactions.”

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As of August 2018, Twitch was estimated to have 15 million daily active users and 2.2 million broadcasters monthly, way ahead of rivals like YouTube Gaming. One of the hottest pro gamers on Twitch, Ninja, recently attracted about 650,000 viewers when he streamed playing the popular survival-shooter Fortnite with rap star Drake.

Shear, however, said that Twitch is not building an “addiction loop” like social apps, such as Facebook and Instagram. Its users, according to Shear, do not open the streaming service multiple times a day, they open it for a long time when they use it. “I actually think that is a much healthier way of interacting with your technology, and with entertainment,” he said.

“Why does cocaine have this terrible reputation for addictiveness? Because it’s this drug that you’re, like, doing over and over and over again. You keep having to go back to it,” he explained.

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What Shear sees as addictiveness, in fact, is something China’s biggest apps excel at. Tik Tok and Kuaishou, for example, are two popular video apps that let users create and watch clips as short as 15 seconds. A combined average of 1 billion videos generated on these two platforms each day make sure users will never get bored. The country’s hottest mobile game, Honour of Kings, has been described by state media as a “drug”.

Tech addiction is high on the Chinese government’s agenda at the moment after Chinese president Xi Jinping raised the issue of rising myopia among young children. That has spurred app and game developers, such as ByteDance – which operates Tik Tok – and internet giant Tencent Holdings – which owns Honour of Kings – to put in place measures to limit play time for minors.

A parting piece of advice from Shear to everyone: “To not get sucked into the never-ending addiction spiral of phones.”

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