The curious title of Stanford psychiatrist Anna Lembke’s book, Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance within the Age of Indulgence, pays tribute to the crucial and sometimes destructive role that dopamine plays in modern society.
Dopamine, the most chemical involved in addiction, is secreted from certain nerve tracts within the brain after we engage in a rewarding experience like finding food, clothing, shelter, or a sexual mate. But the times when our species dwelled in caves and struggled for survival are long gone. Dopamine Nation explains how living in modern society, affluent beyond comparison by evolutionary standards, has rendered us all susceptible to dopamine-mediated addiction. Today, the addictive substance of choice, whether we are aware of it or not, is usually the web and social media channels, per Lembke, MD. “If you are not addicted yet, it’s coming soon to an internet site near you,” Lembke joked after I talked to her about the message of Dopamine Nation, which was published in August. This Q&A is abridged from that exchange.
What are the chance factors for addiction?
Even as the needle is the delivery mechanism for drugs like heroin, the smartphone is the modern-day needle, delivering digital dopamine for a wired generation. The needle delivers a drug right into our system, which successively delivers it right to the brain, making the drug stiffer. the identical is true for the smartphone; with its bright colors, flashing lights, and fascinating alerts, it delivers images to our visual area that is tough to resist. and therefore the quantity is endless. TikTok never runs out.
What makes social media particularly addictive?
We’re wired to attach. It’s kept us alive for uncountable years in a very world of scarcity and ever-present danger. acquiring tribes safeguards against predators optimizes scarce resources, and facilitates pair bonding. Our brains release dopamine after we make human connections, which incentivizes us to try to do it again.
But the social connection has become dignified by social-media apps, making us prone to compulsive overconsumption. They are doing that by amplifying the feel-good properties that attract humans to every other in the first place. Then there is a novelty. Dopamine is triggered by our brain’s search-and-explore functions, telling us, “Hey, concentrate on the current, something new has come along.” Raise that the substitute intelligence algorithms that learn what we’ve liked before and suggest new things that are similar but not precisely the same, and we’re off and running.
Further, our brains aren’t equipped to process the numerous comparisons the virtual world demands. we are able to become overwhelmed by our inability to live up to those “perfect” folks that exist only within the Matrix. We hand over trying and sink into depression, or what neuroscientists called “learned helplessness.”