The other day, some of our staff attended a concert here in LA. Electronic, hypnotic dance meditation. Amazing show for us audiophiles. But, you know, it astounded us how many people in the crowd didn’t even experience the show IRL. They busied themselves capturing the moment on their phones, many madly posting updates every few minutes. Their faces evinced a kind of obsessive-compulsion, like crackheads crumbing for scraps.
By now, everyone’s heard of those famous rat studies. The poor, addicted rodent keeps pushing the bar to self-administer heroin or cocaine. The strung-out creature continues to deliver a dopamine hit directly to the brain, eschewing all other stimuli—even food and reproduction. Eventually – you guessed it – it’s bye-bye rat.
Guess what? Social media works the same way on us. Really. This is not an exaggeration. Beyond the grander sense of psychological belonging and well-being we think we’re getting from it – we’re not, really – all the pinging and dinging on SM apps like Facebook and Twitter triggers tiny hits of endorphins in our brains. The same neurochemicals we get from exercise, sex—and, yes, narcotics.
Research shows that talking about ourselves also activates the same reward center in our brains, compelling us to continue narrating our every – mostly uninspiring – move. No, no one besides you gives a steaming crap that you’re about to chow down on a jumbo plate of clams casino. And they’re not at the show. You are. Enjoy the f****g thing.
There’s a reason they call the sea of online stuff “streaming.” The continuous, propulsive, ostensibly inescapable onrush of activity, seemingly of life itself, that persists online. It’s always within reach, more often than not in our pocket and even our hand. It demands we dive in or at least dip a toe. It’s current. It refreshes. Right?
Not really. It’s mostly flotsam and jetsam, oil slick, blubber.
And the undertow can kill our productivity. It stuns us. It drowns us.
It’s not our willpower that’s to blame. The whole ecosystem of the Internet and social media has been painstakingly engineered to keep us “engaged” (read: zombified) in this so-called stream. The ergonomics of the mouse wheel or touchpad and, of late, touch screen technology on mobile devices, that keeps us scrolling. The non-stop instant gratification – waves of tiny highs of pleasure and fulfilment that constitute the very definition of addiction – we get from being continuously “in the know.”
In the know? No. Not swimming—bobbing, barely keeping our head above water.
It’s only the allure of the “magic maybe” of continuous potential that, by definition, never delivers. Maybe that hot person responded to our profile with a naked pic; maybe our cute cat vid went viral; maybe our ex liked that memory of us two last Valentine’s Day; maybe, maybe, maybe …
You can think of it as a dopamine loop. A social media hamster wheel it’s become exceedingly difficult – well nigh impossible – to get off.
It’s a virtual rat race—even harder to win than the metaphorical ones. The system trains and retrains our neurotransmitters to expect quick hits. And after awhile, it severely impairs our ability to wait for rewards, to work on longer-term, mission-based goals. Those that require hard work, sacrifice, loneliness along the way. In other words, anything and everything that really matters.
You don’t get 50 “likes” for every page of the novel you’re writing on the train on the way to work. The line of code that took you seven hours to untangle doesn’t garner a dozen happy face emojis from those “friends” in your circle when you post it. The video of your gymnastics routine doesn’t gain an international following until it’s Olympic or better (unless you incorporate your adorable cat).
The only “instant gratification” you get is entirely internal. And that’s like telling the drug addict to give up cocaine and appreciate a runner’s high.
Consider a 1-hour session with your favorite Focus@Will channel. Allow it to work on your nonconscious brain for a positive effect, to subliminally assist your concentration, your focus. And work on something important for a change, undistracted by the detritus of the online stream. We assure you that you won’t miss out. You’ll tap into an internal torrent – your creativity, your calling, your destiny – which is the only one that will carry you, catapult you where you need to go. Try it now at focusatwill.com.