ADDICTED TO DOPAMINE

As I write this, I’m observing my fellow diners who are buried in their cell phones. The couple, sitting to my right, seems to be on their date night, but haven’t said a word to each other in about ten minutes because they’re consumed by their apps.

Is the art of conversation dead? Why would you go on your date night and sit opposite someone you love in utter silence whilst on your apps looking for love and attention from a complete stranger in a virtual world.

You, like me probably see people obsessing on their phones constantly, in restaurants, coffee shops and cars…at dinner tables around the country children are ignored, people are checking their phones all the time whilst kids are desperate to get their own phone so they can mimic their parents behavior. Is this normal? Is this improving our interpersonal skills and is this adding to the fabric of society?

Why do we do it? For that magic PING! The rush of pleasure when we receive the approval in the form of a thumbs up from a stranger, acquaintance or friend who likes the picture of the scrambled egg on toast we had for breakfast… You post and you keep checking…does anyone like it…does anyone like my scrambled egg on toast? The inference is does anyone like me? Then,

PING! A notification. Someone likes your gloriously filtered scrambled…you’ve had the thumbs up…and then WOOSH!!! A surge of dopamine rushes round your brain!!! You check again in the car, on the bus, in the elevator, on the metro, in your Uber & on the toilet wondering all the time, does anyone like my life?

Why did me having a delightful time with my partner on date night gave me 15 whilst my scrambled egg on toast only get 12 likes!!! What’s wrong with me?

PING!!! A Dopamine surge!! This time a love heart…it’s a vicious cycle and if the bosses of Facebook and other social media platforms won’t allow their children to use their product then what is that saying to us?

I use Social Media primarily for business. I also see the good points of social media because you’re connected to people so therefore it can be a great tool…It can help you to keep in contact with people from school, work, with friends & family, and maybe used as a networking tool; that's got to be good and I’m quite sure it was started with only the best of intentions but I also see the negatives too. When you have to profit from your altruistic platform what are the hidden dangers?

The Algorithms? They are collating all sorts of information about us including, our sexual orientation...our political leanings. What makes us happy? What makes us sad? What products we’re buying. How connected we are to our friends and how connected we are to our family…they can even measure our eye movements.

They target us with specific ads or messages tailored perfectly to our lifestyles. Some of the more cynical might say there is no oversight to the accuracy of these messages and their ability to manipulate us. If we are feeling sad, they know how to make us happy and when the identify this you’ll probably see the lipstick ad or the sneakers ad or whatever it is that you might buy to make you feel “good” again magically appearing.

Basically, they know how to tap into our brains. They understand the reward structures in our mind and how to make the best of them. They’re tapping into the basic animal instinct in us and rewarding as with pings of pleasure…and you know what? We love it!!!

As before, I do social media, well I try my best to do social media but honestly I feel my life is mostly pedestrian. I try to post interesting things that appeal to me but after a while how many people want to see my boring routine over and over again. Its hard work trying to present happy, having fun, eating at fabulous places and with a perfect companion all the time. We light, filter, cut and present our lives to the outside world in the way we think people want to see and the more people like our edited lives the more addictive it becomes.

Social media is becoming highly addictive and the reason for that is the dopamine surges that make us so happy and bring us back to the sites to let us see more advertising and in some instances, fake news, each time someone presses “like”. In order to survive it, or at least be in control (to some extent) we need to adopt the mindset of critical thinking, we need those skills to understand what is really happening because it seems to me we’re in some sort of matrix that measures our every engagement with the respective platforms. It would be wonderful if we were only seeing our friends… But we’re not, we’re part of this big social experiment that 1) we’re not 100% in control of and 2) have no concept of the parameters.

How to survive social media? Ok, so first, determine your level of addiction and make a daily count how many times do you check your phone. Then consider how much time and energy that’s consuming and whether you are happy with that and think it is a concern or not… If so,

1) Turn off your notifications

2) Only look at your apps only at certain times

3) Set parameters on time

4) Delete the app

It’s that easy. Perhaps the reason we rely so heavily on social media and our apps is because we’re working more than ever before? Maybe this is affecting us and creating the reduction in our communities because we’re not interacting with as many people as we did due to a lack of time. Many of us are displaced from our families and disconnected from that community. Some of us are living away from the communities we were brought up in and therefore connecting with friends virtually is becoming the new norm, but I wonder do these platforms create real friendships or are they merely the enablers for gaining attention?

Is a “like” the act of true friendship? People are doing all sorts of things to get “likes” and “comments”, and often only for self-aggrandizement. I’ve noticed this with the fitness industry. Working out is one of my interests and to that end I’ve been following a number of personal trainers and fitness models but rather than tips for success and adding value to their followers what we mostly seeing is blue steel pouts, endless six packs and “junk” arranged ubiquitously in tiny Speedos. I should say, my own trainer Tim Blakey is the exception to the rule but other than that it gets kind of boring, you know? It also invites in comparison. I’ve come realize I could never have a body like those guys ANYWAY because their hunger for likes, approval or dare I say “fame” is so insatiable, that, for a regular person like me (who doesn’t hold that level of obsessive desire) it makes it almost impossible to be acquire or even be motivated to have similar - no matter how good they look.

Those are not the things I want to be giving my precious time to anymore, the types of relationships I want to foster are the real ones that matter most. Not virtual. Nurturing relationships with people we love, not soliciting the glancing approval of complete strangers and certainly not the coveting of fame and celebrity, which seems to be within all our grasps in our virtual fishbowls. Andy Warhol talked about everyone having 15 minutes of fame; I think its now online, and its 5 minutes & 15 likes...

Social media can be such fun and it certainly has been at times for me, but it’s also been shallow, vacuous, meaningless and filled with inauthentic versions of our lives. I desire real relationships and real life. So, when you ask me what I’ll be cutting back on in 2018, the answer is gluten, dairy and reduction of my time on social media.

Please “like” if you agree ;) LOL