As habit research boomed in the early 1900s a single most important habit in all human lives was identified; the-nothing-habit. The go-to behavior of people when they have nothing else to do.


Media organizations have tried to capitalize on this behavior since it was first identified. Initially, newspapers encouraged people to carry them around in their briefcase or pocket and pull it out whenever waiting in line or waiting in a restaurant. These were easily identified times when people were doing nothing and the hope was people would develop the-nothing-habit to pick up a paper, thus allowing newspapers to better influence people and have better circulation.

Hitler went a step forward with his building of large speakers in cities across Germany and subsidizing the price of home radios. His plan bypassed the need for people to purchase the tool needed to create the habit. No longer was the-nothing-habit dependent on people picking up and buying newspapers, all they had to do was sit and listen. Once the habit was in place, when the people found themselves doing nothing, they would seek out a radio, thus giving him greater influence over the German people.


[Additional Notes by Jay Nichols] The pursuit of the-nothing-habit continues today mostly through the development of cellphone apps. Some of the greatest minds of our time now spend every day trying to find ways to get people to spend more time on social media or other websites. Walking the streets of any city, you can see that these developers have won the battle for the-nothing-habit and now only contend with each other.

 Notes on the heading:


 This is the first time I created the addendum to have Jay Nichols put in his own additional notes, these, of course, are mine as well, but I was getting feedback from beta readers about the timeline of technology and how it made some of the chapter headings feel out of place.

I find the idea of the-nothing-habit incredibly interesting. I once heard Spencer W. Kimble state, “When I know what a man thinks when he has nothing to think about, then I will know who he is.” The idea has resonated with me ever since. The emptiness of our lives, the in-between moments that have no demands can be some of our most defining, but the last 100 years of human history we have seen media or corporations trying to take those moments for their own profit.

I’ve played my share of dumb phone games. I always look back and wonder why? Why was it so engaging? I suppose the answer is that it wasn’t, I just didn’t have anything better to do. In recent years with the rise of Kindle and audiobooks I’ve been able to fill that time with literature, a deliberate choice by me instead of brilliant marketers.