“Twist Top” and Why do I keep wanting to check my messages?

Twist Top (sold)
6″ x 6″
oil on panel
©2010 Tracy Wall

(For whatever reason, I keep finding this twisted pumpkin stem interesting.)

Sometimes I keep wanting to check my e-mail, blog stats, social media, other websites.

I heard an interesting interview on NPR a while back about how technology impacts the brain.  One aspect in particular got me thinking: the relationship between the need to constantly check our digital connections – email, texts, comments, social networks – and brain physiology.  These digital social connections may release dopamine, which may be involved with addictive behaviors.

Matt Richtel, technology journalist for The New York Times, points out that research has shown the overwhelming impact of digital information overload:

“When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring — you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline.  Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You’re conditioned by a neurological response: ‘Check me check me check me check me.’ “

When we get a call, an e-mail, a text, a ‘like’, or a response or comment, it’s a little excitement.  This spurs the production of dopamine, a precursor to epinephrine (adrenaline), and give us a high.  When the excitement is gone, it leaves behind a sense of a slowdown which can only be remedied by increasing dopamine levels again. The brain learns to seek out that which will stimulate dopamine production, thereby creating an addiction.

So someone may feel compelled to check e-mail, websites, social networks, blogs for that little adrenaline rush of a response, a connection.  A physiological explanation for a digital addiction.

I love checking up on all my digital connections, but there’s others for more addicted than me.  How addicted are you?


About Tracy Wall

I'm an artist and massage therapist living in Denver, Colorado.
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