On cutting off some dopamine dependency
Over time, my relationship with the Internet has turned me into a dopamine-dependent. I’ve reached a point when my body often has a physical presence in the offline world throughout the day, but my brain wanders in the online space.
Should I tweet about this? What if I write a blog post about that? This is boring; let me check what people are talking about on Twitter. Look at that beautiful scene; I’ll take and share a photo on Instagram. This is hilarious; I’ll tweet what happened to me. I built this open-source project, I’ll share it broadly to gauge people’s reactions.
I was once gifted the Internet awesomeness, and now I gift my time and energy back to the Internet for free. In the meantime, life goes by, and I miss the opportunities to do fulfilling offline and social activities. Is this sustainable long-term? I don’t think it is.
The more I run on the dopamine treadmill, the faster it goes, and the more I need to have a sense of fulfillment. I’ve got online friends that I feel I need to feed with photos and stories, some followers on Twitter I feel I need to share updates with, a handful of open-source projects I feel I need to maintain. There are also newsletters I feel I have to keep up with, Reddit discussions I feel might be relevant to me, and podcasts I feel it’d be great to listen to. I become blinker, and consequently, I miss out on the beauty of slowness, the present, and the beauty of the offline world. It’s all me, my ego, the dopamine, and what I feel I need to do. It’s all feelings.
What’s worse is that it has a cascading effect. People see the facade, and if they feel inspired by a professional trajectory, they think they need to imitate what you do. The world then becomes a dopamine festival. Rockstars take the main stage, while the audience dream of becoming one in the future. I don’t need to learn how to play an instrument, nor find a band or a manager; I need time and some tools that people are already addicted to (e.g. Twitch, Twitter, TikTok). If I build my audience, I can play in the main stages too.
The Internet has paved the way to achieve a dopamine-dependent life whose meaning come from other people worshipping you and your work.
Seeking that life has some similarities with dreaming with becoming a millionaire. We pour a lot of energy, time, and sometimes health to finally realize you made your life more meaningless. We are on the treadmill, so we need recognition or money to sense a meaningful life.
The truth that many of us fail to realize is that we are social animals; thus long-lasting happiness and fulfillment often comes from social interactions in the offline world. If there’s something positive out of the COVID19 pandemic, it’s that it proved that we can’t replace offline relationships with Zoom calls or Clubhouse discussions.
Alright, Pedro, I get you, but how are you going to remove your dependency? First, I’ll limit the content consumption time to Friday mornings. If I find something interesting, I’ll use a read-later and save it to read it on Fridays. Regarding my usage of social networks, I’ll limit their usage to once per day. The list of social networks includes Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I like capturing my ideas and reflections in the open, and therefore, I’ll continue sharing them. However, I’ll use my personal website as a medium and not Twitter. The reason is that I don’t want to contribute to the stream of tweets that might contribute to increasing people’s anxiety. I’ll increase the amount of social and offline activities. For example, learning how to design and assemble furniture, gardening, or learning German has been on my list for quite a long time, and I continue postponing to leave space for my online endeavors. And last, I’ll remove any sense of obligation with anyone on the Internet. I’ll do things that bring me joy.
Let’s see how it goes.