Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes us want things and *work* to get them. Dopamine is what creates the feelings of motivation and drive when we pursue a goal. It’s what gets us off the couch to go to the library and study. It’s also what makes us pull out our phones to check Instagram.
Dopamine is the driver behind the pursuit of **all* rewards. These rewards can be positive ones:
* pursuing our college degree
* training for a marathon
* making new friends
but they can also be negative ones:
* buying cigarettes
* eating junk food
* surfing social media
* playing hours of video games
The Internet Releases Dopamine
There are many sites/apps on the internet that can light up our hunter gatherer brains and deliver hit after hit of dopamine. In general all sites on the internet release of dopamine, even this site, your email, your banks online statement, and tools like Google Maps but there are certain sites/apps that are much worse than others.The most serious offenders are:
Social media platforms:
Video games (some games are much worse than others)
* World of Warcraft
* League of Legends
As a brief aside in Adam Alter’s *Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and The Business of Keeping Us Hooked* it’s shown that the brains of teenagers playing the highly addictive game World of Warcraft, resemble those of people who have just taken the drug cocaine.
* Low quality content sites (mashable, buzzfeed, etc.)
* Clickbait news
* Adult sites
These sites and apps deliver constant hits of dopamine that create the repetitive, addictive cycle of mindless surfing. The type of behavior that people engage in without much thought. Scrolling through Facebook or Instagram out of habit. Watching video after video on YouTube. Playing endless games of Hearthstone or League of Legends.
When our brains feel the effects of dopamine over and over again, they become *desensitized* to its effects. The number of dopamine receptors in our brain will actually decrease as a result. This means that we will need more and more dopamine to get the same effects (motivation, excitement, passion, drive) as we once did.
The stimulation threshold needed to experience the effects of dopamine starts to increase the more you are exposed to it’s effects.
This means that other activities in your life, will start to pale in comparison to the the internet because they can’t compete with the internet in terms of stimulation. Books, musical instruments, our academic studies can all seem dry and listless. No matter how hard you try, they will seem boring and difficult which leads to lack of interest, procrastination, and low motivation to start things.
As we wind our internet use back down to healthy levels, the constant stream of dopamine stops which will help the reward system start to heal. It will slowly start to rewire back to a new stimulation level. Your brain will literally grow new dopamine receptors in response to this. As a result, we will start to feel energized and motivated for life again.
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