The Digital Fix

As an undergraduate psyche major I used a Skinner Box to study operant learning in pigeons. Later in grad school I worked with such exotic critters as coati mundis and tree shrews. Animals would learn to peck at lights or press a lever to get a food reward.

Never heard of a Skinner Box?

Pecking on the correct visual stimulus delivers food pellet in tray below

In various degrees we all live in a digital Skinner Box – and swipes, likes and tweets activate our reward lever. Instant jolts of dopamine (dubbed “the Kim Kardashian of molecules” due to its mainstream prominence) flood our brains.

We’re forever “interrupting ourselves”, as addiction expert Dr. Anna Lembke puts it, for a quick digital fix. Social media is a constant binge enabling us to escape the stickiness of life with an easy distraction

Many as a result experience attention-span difficulty and rarely get into a creative flow.

Neuroscientists tell us that our obsession with instant gratification also means we’re constantly living in our limbic brain, which processes emotions, rather than in our pre-frontal cortex, which deals with future planning and problem-solving, and is important for personality development.

Social media addiction is a spectrum disorder: it’s not as simple as being an addict or not being an addict. We could all benefit from setting aside time to do nothing, give our synapses a break now and then.

4 Replies to “The Digital Fix”

  1. Well done and said, John. My wife (of 55-1/2 years!) Dorothy and I are planners, particularly she as a meal-planner. Trying to get preferences and plans out of children and grandchildren is worse than pulling teeth.

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Good info, Oops.

    I still set aside time throughout the day to do my “stop-and-look-listen-breathe” meditations. I do nothing but enjoy that moment for a few moments … several times daily. We also walk the “Florida swamp” daily where we concentrate on “spotting various forms of wildlife.” It’s amazing what you can see when you’re taking the time to “look.”

    Thanks for the reminders to spend some time with “ourselves.” HUSS


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