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Electronic Crack

By Larry Plesant

We’ve all heard comments that smartphones, which moving forward we will refer to as rectangles, being “electronic crack.” Well the scientific data is coming in, and it turns out that the electronic crack remark is spot-on. Here’s why:

You know how good and self-satisfied you feel after completing a task like cleaning your house or organizing your desk? That is because our brains have a built in reward mechanism that gives us a shot of dopamine, (as in “why do you think they call it dopamine?”), when we accomplish something. It’s kind of like getting a treat for being a good girl or boy.

Yippieeee. Photo by Matthias Zirngibl from Germany. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Well, it turns out this reward mechanism is actually quite stupid. It gives out that shot of dopamine whenever YOU feel like you accomplished a task. This applies not only big things like discovering a new non-polluting energy source, but really little dumb-ass little things like deleting spam or forwarding a Facebook post about a cat that can dance on its hind legs (as one example).

Yes, it’s true. We get rewards from making simple, silly little decisions like deleting, forwarding or otherwise dealing with words on your rectangle, because they involve making ANY type of decision. They can and most likely will trigger the dopamine reward mechanism.

So there it is. Playing with your rectangle is the brain’s equivalent of smoking crack cocaine. This is literally true, since cocaine works by blocking one of the dopamine feedback receptors, allowing your brain dopamine levels to quickly build up beyond normal parameters. It doesn’t matter if your delivery system is a glass crack pipe or a 6-inch plastic rectangle. The results are exactly the same, though the dosage is smaller.

To learn more about the numerous ways that smartphones are making us addicted and stupid, check out the work of neuroscientist David J. Levitin and The Guardian Newspaper online.

This is the Soapman, saying, “Don’t be a dopamine head. Stay off the electronic crack.”

 

Larry Plesant is a writer, philosopher, part time farmer, and soapmaker living and working in the Green Mountains of Vermont. More at Vermontsoap.com.

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