How the internet turned us all into dopamine junkies

We are becoming true junkies thanks to cellphones and the social media platforms that they promote. While it’s easy to dismiss this assertion as an exaggeration, social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram employ the same brain circuitry as slot machines and drugs to keep us addicted to their services. While cellphones themselves are not intrinsically addictive, the hyper-social settings they enable are the actual drivers of our ties to them.

Never on Your Own

If you’ve ever misplaced your phone, you may have felt a little anxious until it was discovered. Approximately 73 percent of persons report suffering from this distinct type of anxiety.

Dopamine and social reward are the levers in our brains

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter generated by our brains that plays a key function in behavior motivation. It is released when we take a piece of great food, have sex, exercise, and, most significantly, have effective social connections.

Reward prediction mistakes and varied reward schedules are the hands that pull.

Because most social media sites are free to use, they rely on advertising income to generate money. At first sight, this approach appears to benefit everyone involved, yet it has resulted in an arms race for your attention and time.

The Competition for Your Time

If you’ve been a Facebook member for a while, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the site’s notification criteria have been growing. When you initially join Facebook, your notification center is centered on the first set of connections you create, establishing the critical link between notification and social reward.

Analyze Your Habits

Smartphones and social media applications aren’t going away anytime soon, so we, the users, must determine how much of our time we want to devote to them. They stack the deck—and our brains—against us by employing algorithms to exploit our dopamine-driven reward system.