Dopamine is the chemical in our brain that produces the feel-good feeling. Small enjoyments can release this chemical like completing a quick task at work, great enjoyment like playing a video game, or extreme pleasures like having orgasms.
The problem with dopamine is that it can become addictive. Dopamine is the same chemical released when people do illegal drugs or watch pornography. Drugs and pornography are evident addictions, but social media isn’t so much. What people don’t realize is that dopamine is released when they log onto Facebook and receive positive feedback from their status updates like when people post their opinions about a current event, update their relationship status, or talk about their new job.
People release dopamine when they receive likes on their Instagram photos. When you first start Instagram, a few likes will make you happy. Once you get used to 10 likes on each picture, you’re going to try new poses, filters, etc to gain 20 likes, and once you post a pic that doesn’t get as many likes as you expected it causes a slight depressive mood.
The dopamine released for social media gratification isn’t as much as the dopamine released during sex, drugs, or pornography, but it is enough to keep people constantly checking their social media when they’re bored. Sometimes I find myself thinking of photos I can take that will gain a lot of likes, I think of opinions to share on Facebook to get a lot of likes. I think of what I can say in 140 characters that will get a lot of retweets. Before YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and MySpace people had to have real life social skills to be popular. These days a high schooler can be a loner in real life but popular on social media.
Facebook was created for Harvard students to network with each other, then it expanded to all college students, and now anyone with an email can create a Facebook profile. After all, I’m not saying social media is a bad thing, but any activity that produces dopamine with no hard work can become a problem.
People who start working out release dopamine at the beginning of their routine because results come easy. Once results slow down and people have to exercise longer and harder to achieve results, they feel stressed rather than releasing dopamine, and that is usually the time when people quit the gym; which is also why many people fail their New Years Resolution. A New Years Resolution releases a lot of dopamine because of the excitement of a new year, a new you, a new beginning. Once people get into the routine of their new workout, new diet, or just a new book, the excitement of newness wears off, and then the hard work starts.
Workaholics may release a lot of dopamine, but for most people, hard work produces stress, anxiety, and other feelings that make us want to quit, and often the dopamine doesn’t come until the task is complete. Instead of quitting your goal when you feel stressed, just push through, and you’ll feel rewarded in the end. Instead of checking social media every time you hit a dull moment, try listening to music, pick up a book, or do a task that requires some hard work. Or, you can just learn how to be bored because many people around you forget how to.