You’ve Got Mail…You’ve got a Problem

CC image via flickr mastrobiggo

By Hannah Lienhard 

“ Such is the state of life, that none are happy but by the anticipation of change: the change itself is nothing; when we have made it, the next wish is to change again.”
Samuel Johnson

What makes us want to refresh our twitter feed three more times before we turn out the lights? Why is it that we are checking our Facebook up until the moment our head hits the pillow? What gets our heart racing when we hear the sound of an email being received?

It is all too easy to write this off as another silly symptom of “kids these days” – or even the age of technology we live in. Some people will joke that they are addicted to their phones, or the various social networking experiences that come with owning a shiny new ipad. The truth is: they don’t know how right they are.

Most people have heard of Dopamine, the powerful chemical in the brain that makes us experience pleasure. That was the older thinking. “Instead of dopamine causing us to experience pleasure, the latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior”. We are so excited by this “goal-seeking behavior” that we have become addicted to seeking information and stimulus. In this age of technology, we now have unlimited access to as much stimulus as we want, need, or desire. What is the type of stimulus that makes our dopamine go haywire? The thrill of an unexpected result or outcome. It can be as simple as opening our Facebook and seeing a notification, or as complicated as spending hours following Google link after Google link only to find you were searching for something completely irrelevant to your original topic.

But what is so terrible about this insane curiosity that keeps us clicking away hours into the night? The problem lies not in the anticipation we crave, but in the exhaustion that comes with seeking for hours. “We are getting caught in an endless loop”. So how do we power off the device while also shutting off our brain? The answer lies in a time old lecture: Self Control. Though it is difficult, we have to keep ourselves in check. Though we have lost our way, we have not lost our willpower.

Weinschenk, Susan, Ph.D. “Dopamine Makes You Addicted To Seeking Information — Science & Technology —” N.p., 7 Sept. 2009. Web. 18 Sept. 2012. <;.

One thought on “You’ve Got Mail…You’ve got a Problem

  1. So true. I have very little self control when it comes to checking in on my Facebook. Case in point: right now. I should be doing my homework (actually, I’m in the middle of doing it) but I just wanted to check my Facebook for a second. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps it was to read this lovely blog post?!

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