Normally, when we think of smartphone addiction, we think of video games or social media, but information-seeking behavior, such as constantly scrolling through the news, can be hazardous to your health as well.
In our digital age, many people often hear notifications, see never-ending news feeds, and feel the pull to browse news apps daily. This behavior ties into our brain chemistry. Dopamine, a key neurotransmitter, drives our desire to seek information and rewards.
The Role of Dopamine in Information-Seeking Behavior
People often call dopamine the “feel-good” chemical. But it’s better to think of it as a messenger for reward-seeking, motivation, and pleasure. When we experience something pleasurable, our brain releases dopamine. This makes us want to repeat that action.
In the past, dopamine helped us survive. For instance, when our ancestors found food or water, a dopamine rush would push them to keep searching for these essentials.
Why We Seek Information
As societies evolved, so did our dopamine triggers. Now, our brain doesn’t only release dopamine for physical rewards but also for intangible ones like information. Discovering new information gives our brain a dopamine boost. Historically, this made sense. Early humans needed new knowledge for survival, like learning about potential dangers.
Today, each piece of news or an article can trigger dopamine, making us crave more. It’s like how we yearn for food or other activities that make us feel good.
Smartphones: Dopamine Machines
Smartphones and apps capitalize on our dopamine system. Every swipe or notification can be a dopamine rush. The element of surprise—whether the next swipe reveals a meme, a news update, or a message—boosts our dopamine even more.
This unpredictability mirrors slot machines. You never know when you’ll hit the jackpot, making you play more. Likewise, not knowing what the next notification holds keeps us glued to our screens.
However, too much dopamine has its downsides. Over time, frequent dopamine hits from constant scrolling can dull our response. Like how drug users need more drugs over time, we might need more screen time or new information for the same dopamine kick.
This never-ending search for information can overload us. We might struggle to understand or remember what we read. We can even feel mentally exhausted.
Balancing Out Information Seeking Behavior
Knowing dopamine’s role in our online habits can help us use tech wisely. Here’s how:
- Set Limits: Designate times for browsing news or social media. This reduces the impulse to always check for news.
- Take Digital Breaks: Stepping away from screens occasionally can help reset our brain’s dopamine response.
- Choose Wisely: Don’t just scroll. Engage deeply with a few key topics.
- Control Notifications: Fewer non-urgent notifications mean fewer urges to check your device.
Our relationship with dopamine and information seeking shines a light on our tech habits. Technology offers us endless information, but understanding the dopamine effect helps us use it wisely. By realizing how our brains work in this digital era, we can enjoy tech without letting it control us.