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How Tech Activates the Dopamine System in Your Brain to Create Addiction

Sunday, May 21st 2023 10:00am 5 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Technology has become an integral part of our lives, providing us with instant gratification and rewards at the click of a button. Unfortunately, some of the design features used in technology, such as screens and apps, are intentionally crafted to activate the dopamine system in our brains, making us more susceptible to addiction. Here are ten ways that technology can activate the dopamine system:

1. Push notifications – App designers often send push notifications to users to encourage them to check the app, creating a sense of anticipation and reward when the notification arrives. This technique can make users feel like they need to check their phone constantly, leading to a compulsive behavior that can be hard to break. To avoid becoming addicted to push notifications, it’s important to turn off notifications for apps that aren’t essential and only check apps on your own terms. You can also set specific times of the day to check your phone and limit your use to those times.

2. Rewards and gamification – Many apps use gamification techniques, such as badges, points, and leaderboards, to create a sense of achievement and reward, which activates the dopamine system. This technique can create a sense of competition between users and motivate them to use the app more frequently, leading to addiction. To avoid becoming addicted to rewards and gamification, it’s important to recognize when you’re using an app for the sake of earning rewards rather than for its intended purpose. Try to use apps for their intended purpose and avoid getting caught up in the reward system.

3. Infinite scrolling – Social media apps like Instagram and Twitter use infinite scrolling to encourage users to keep scrolling, creating a sense of reward and anticipation with each new post. This technique can make users feel like they’re missing out if they don’t check their social media frequently, leading to compulsive behavior. To avoid becoming addicted to infinite scrolling, it’s important to set limits on your social media use. You can also try to use social media intentionally by setting specific goals for what you want to achieve, such as staying connected with friends or learning about a specific topic.

4. Likes and comments – Social media platforms use likes and comments to create social validation and a sense of reward, which can activate the dopamine system. This technique can create a sense of validation and encourage users to seek out more likes and comments, leading to addiction. To avoid becoming addicted to likes and comments, it’s important to recognize that social media validation isn’t a measure of your self-worth. You can also limit your use of social media or take a break altogether to focus on more meaningful forms of validation.

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