Social Media & Dopamine

At the conclusion of a presentation in New Jersey last week a gentleman came up to me and asked if I had seen Simon Sinek’s video about dopamine.  I hadn’t.  But I had pretty much just summarized it in my presentation when I was explaining how my own brain was getting hooked on checking social media.

Since then, I’ve watched it, and I would like to share it with you here (4 min):

Here are my take-aways:

  •  As humans we are all hooked on dopamine, we just have different ways of activating it in our brains.  For some people it’s a hobby, for others it’s drugs, and for many it’s delivered via some kind of interaction with technology; social media, video games, day trading, etc.
  • Dopamine is addictive.  Smoking, drinking, drug use – all of these also release dopamine.  These items are controlled and have age limits, but social media doesn’t.

Here’s where I disagree with his conclusions.

Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc. are all chemicals that are addictive.  They trigger the brain to release dopamine, but they also chemically adhere to nerve endings, hijack our nervous system, and cause a physical addiction.

Just because the dopamine release caused by social media and other technology “addictions” has a similar effect doesn’t mean that they are “addictive”.  Instead, they are behaviors and are therefore “compulsive.”  It may look the same in the users behavior, but it isn’t a physical or chemical addiction.  In other words, Facebook “likes” don’t cross over the blood brain barrier.

One more take-away:

  • In this new high-anxiety society young people are turning to technology to make social connections.  The dopamine rush they receive in the process provide a reward for these compulsive behaviors that transcends into a behavioral issue that compromises their relationships and social connections.

Now this is where I completely agree with Mr. Sinek.  Social Media is adversely effecting a large number of people in our younger generations, and many older generations as well.  Staring at a computer or small screen in the palm of your hand negatively impacts how we communicate and hinders how we create connections with others.  Measuring and comparing ourselves to one another by Instagram posts, Facebook Likes, and Twitter Followers is warping our perception of ourselves, and our realities.

My question is, what do we do about it?

If you would like to see more from Simon Sinek follow him on Facebook.
(See what I did there?)

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