Here's something to try. Sit at your computer screen and when you get an email, try as hard as you can not to open it. See how long you can go.
Try the same thing next time you get a text. Or tomorrow, don't check your Facebook or Twitter account. Can you get through an entire day without looking?
Odds are, you can't. And if you can, it'll take a lot of will power. It's as though we're addicted. But why? Well, we found a fascinating piece from Psychology Today, that helps explain it.
Apparently, the problem is dopamine - a chemical created in our brain. Dopamine plays a major role in helping us think, move, sleep, pay attention and stay motivated.
Traditionally, scientists believed dopamine controls the "pleasure" part of our brain so we seek out things that bring us joy such as food or sex. But new research is putting a bit of a twist on that thinking.
Now, there's a growing belief that dopamine goes beyond a physical feeling; that in fact, dopamine actually makes us curious, and pushes us to learn, and search for new information - all things that keep us alive, motivated and challenged.
When you look at it that way, it makes perfect sense that we could become addicted to the internet, email or texting. For example, if dopamine makes us curious, it's only natural we want to open an email or a text right away. But it doesn't stop there.
Once we open it, we can respond right away. And then, the other person responds. So, scientists say we keep getting rewarded for searching, which makes us want to search more. And eventually, it becomes harder and harder to stop looking at e-mail, stop texting, or stop tweeting.
Not only that, but researchers say dopamine has the power to keep telling us "more more more." So, we keep looking for info, even when we have the answer.
Let's say you want to know the words to The Beatles song Revolution. You find the lyrics, but then you start looking for other song lyrics, or you start reading about John Lennon, and then Vladimir Lenin and then historic revolutions and so on.
Three hours later, you're still at the computer looking up stuff. And you realize you have to get up in a few hours.
Researchers say dopamine is also stimulated when something is unpredictable. We get an email or a text, but we don't know what it says, or when we'll get another one, or who it'll be from. All of that makes us more curious.
And if there's a sound when a text or email arrives, or we see it on our screen, forget about it. We can't wait to see it. And apparently, the shorter the message, the more dopamine kicks in. So, Twitter is perfect to get our dopamine system going.
Of course, scientists say this isn't necessarily a good thing. They say we can get into a dopamine loop, where we're constantly checking email and texts, which makes it tough to get other things done (like our jobs).
So, what to do? Well, scientists say the best thing is, turn off the settings on our phones or computer, so we don't get a sound or a visual cue when an email or text comes through. They say it's the best way to get work done, or simply tune out and relax.
Or you could just subscribe to Louis C.K. and Lewis Black's way of thinking. Watch and laugh.
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