Dopamine: How does this "digital heroin” impact our tech lives?
Much has been argued on the subject of social media, particularly in relation to Millennials, in recent years:
- is it good or bad?
- is it actually harming young minds?
- is it creating a generation far more removed on a social / relationship basis?
Understanding these impacts is essential if we are to best prepare our younger generations.
We can regard social media as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it enables a platform for users to share amazing stories and to interact with communities on a global scale. But on the other hand, concerns around self-esteem and the growing fear of Social Networking Addiction underlie fears of social media use.
The reality is that whatever the impact of social media, it is here to stay.
Dopamine and social media
The use of mobile tech and social media has been proven to release dopamine - the "feel good" chemical - in our brains. We receive a text, we get a hit of dopamine. We get a Like on Facebook, we get a hit of dopamine. Someone has commented on our Instagram post, we get a hit of dopamine.
Simon Sinek - author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant - identifies social media as having heavily addictive consequences; particularly on the Millennial generation.
Tech = instant gratification
Simon identifies that we live in a world of instant gratification, easily facilitated by social media and mobile technology. The way that we now interact, shop and entertain ourselves is led by the notion of instant gratification.
You want to buy something, you go to Amazon. You want to watch a show, you binge entire seasons on Netflix and streaming services. You want to seek companionship, you swipe right on Tinder and similar dating apps.
The impact of this is a generation growing up without the values of patience instilled in them. This means that important factors of adult-life, like professional work and love, become more difficult to manage.
Realistically, there are no quick fixes for such things - they require time and hard work to achieve.
What can we do?
While there is no simple answer, tech today is having an impact that we are still learning to understand, there are steps we can take:
- remove the temptation: one of the major changes we see with mobile tech is where we charge our devices. For most, this will be overnight by the bed. Try to change this, charge mobiles in another room for example. This will help remove the temptation of looking at your phone first thing in the morning or even going on your phone when you are struggling to sleep
- take a #DigitalDetox: we all need down time from the hustle and bustle of our working (or learning) days. When this comes around look to do activities that are not based on the phone or in front of a screen. Go outside and enjoy nature. Connect with friends and family face-to-face (FaceTime does not count)
- turn off notifications (even for a little bit): we all know that sound, and we all know that without thinking you will be checking your phone instantly. Take away this reaction by turning off notifications. You may miss the odd Instagram like or not be aware that Lady Gaga is doing a LIVE-stream, but that's ok!
Social media is not going anywhere and there is a real danger that it can become an addiction for many young users. We need to understand that social media can have real effects on people and prepare ourselves for safe social media use.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic - please comment below.