Unintended Consequences

Hinge Founder: I Didn’t Escape Addiction to be a Slave to My Phone

Founder of popular dating app Hinge opens up about his battle with addiction and how it led him to regulate his tech use.

Read an edited transcript below, or listen to the full interview on the First Contact podcast.

“If I think about it it was lack of connection…”


Justin: I’ve always been an extremist you know? …Extreme hot mess, and then throwing myself into work…

Laurie: What was it about you that was kind of attracted to the extremes? What did you struggle with?

Justin: I mean really, if I think about it…it was lack of connection. I mean really when you think about what is addiction, it’s kind of just like a really sad and narrow way to try to meet our needs for feeling okay with ourselves, for feeling connected. And when we’re not good at feeling connected to people around us, to our work, to our purpose, we go for the cheap alternative. And then the more that you spend time with the cheap alternative, the less the real stuff seems like an option anymore. And you just get stuck in this spiral, and I think that’s kind of how I felt. And I just didn’t have good tools…

And then losing Kate, and then not getting the job that I wanted…The day I walked across the stage…graduating from college, I just said, “That’s it.” And I stopped drinking, I stopped doing drugs, and I was like, “I’m gonna put my life together, and I don’t really know what the point of living is if it’s not partying, but I’m gonna try to figure it out.”

Laurie: Did I read you don’t even have social media on your phone or…email?

Justin: I don’t have social media period, and I don’t have Slack or email on my phone…’Cause I’m not strong enough to fight it. Like honestly… You know, you’re talking to someone who escaped like drug and alcohol addiction, right? Like I’m not strong enough to fight those tools. They pull us in, and they’re so addicting, and I know what that feels like because of my experience, and I don’t want that.

You know. I didn’t….free myself from addiction from drugs and alcohol just to be like a slave to my phone. … We’re designed to like sugar, but then you create candy bars and it’s like, “Whoo!”
It’s like our systems don’t even know what to do with that, and then like fruit doesn’t taste as good anymore.

And if you think about the fast food analogy, you know, it’s food that is way over-stimulating, and then imagine if they could just put french fries in your back pocket, and not only that, but monitor like how many you ate it today and if they could like tweak like of the bit more salt, and maybe like a little bit less fat, then like that would get you to eat them even faster … I mean that’s the reality that we’re living in, like how many french fries would you be eating per day if it was in your back pocket, and they could constantly monitor your like biometrics to figure out whether this is like even better tasting to you.