Dopamine poisoning


I am convinced that we are in danger of dopamine intoxication. By we I mean society in the modern age, in social media era. There are more and more documentaries about this phenomena so ADHD children, addicted to TikTok and Instagram and (pick one any one) social network.

In a personal observation I have noticed my ability to concentrate has deteriorated enormously. What I can not measure is if it is obviously related to my age, or my electronic habits. Also for a person who likes to write I am often in front of a screen to do that specially. BUT that device undoubtedly is connected to the maelstrom. And we all know that is the black hole of of black holes. My creative writing sessions have reduced to a few hours if I am lucky.

The other curiosity I noticed about my self is that often I'm much more productive on holiday. So my tendency is to blame the stress of making my living, however that is not really 100% accurate. You see not only is the opportunity to write important, which obviously a holiday does provide, but also the context need to exist. The place in which you can be creative, relaxed and willing to spend the time. All creatives know that it really is a crapshoot, you might get it and you might think you got it but end up wasting the time. You just do not know. Anyway it must be done, I need to put myself in a silo to indulge in the act of writing, either way the dice fall.

And for me that was often on the beach in the shade of an umbrella with a bar, a toilet and eye candy close by, not to mention the infinity of the horizon or the calm of the lapping shore. Ah wow that last sentence made me salivate.

In that world there was no computer involved. No internet, and also no mobile data. Being at the beach meant I was handwriting, with a notebook and pen. So to return the question; where does the time go to be creative? I would say into distractions. That is a dumby thing to state, so lets me expand. What is a distraction? It's an interruption that will derail our brain or thought for longer than 5 minutes, such that the cognitive context in which your thought were occurring is lost. When I have the annoyed inner thought of "hmmm, now what was I doing", that is the marker.

You eject from a stream of thought. And not only that but you are also seduced by another context that promises to reward you emotionally.

On the beach a distraction might be a bronze person in intriguing swimwear ... or not in swimwear at all. Now that would probably indicate that the beach would be a very unproductive realm in which to cultivate a working context. Right? But in my experience it isn't. It's the opposite.

When i think about it i find myself asking why is that? Why am I quite happy to have the distraction of a sexual fantasy and maintain the context and then easily continue? By easily I mean without noticeable effort. At the moment this is the only argument I have got: The worst possible interruption you can have is audio. In that last scene it was a visual distraction.

I do not pretend this is serious scientifically measurable certainty, but please hear me out.

When I am at home, or in the office I am finely tuned to chimes. If I played the knock of an iPhone message, or the buzz of a haptic vibration, or the ping of Slack mention, or the system sound of a push notification you would respond, perhaps not immediately but you would place a marker in your mind, a person reminder, like a tiny Christmas present, burning to get unwrapped.

And then sooner of later you'd sneak off to open the present. I know, I am like that too. During office hours I will often respond to a sound byte immediately. A notication, a DM, a calendar reminder. Sound is extremely difficult to ignore. Sound is very penetrating. And when you think about that it seems so obvious why. Sound is a defence system.

For primitive man sound was by far more important that sight. Sound is the thing that reveals stuff that is moving and that stuff might also out of sight. Like a sudden russel in long grass. Sound is hard wired into our reptilian brain, where our eyes aren't, they give us data that needs to be pre-processed first and only then are those filtered signals delivered to the inner brain and then we respond to the information.

If you are still on the fence about sound being more important that sight consider these two arguments. The first is that you can hear while you are asleep, and secondly; you can position or locate things behind you, or within a full 360 degree scope. You know when something is following you and approximately how far away that might be or if it is accelerating toward you. Your eyes can only do this when they are open pointed at the source and with out obstructed, i.e. a clear line of sight exists between eyes and subject.

App makers know the power of sound, in the way that all humans at some level know it too. How often have you reached to answer your phone only to discover it's someones else's, you coincidentally have the same ring tone.

If I asked you to hum the Nokia signature sound you probably could. If i asked you to make the iPhone default ring tone you could, (ps. I'm an Android user so my ring tones are not quite as uniform as the Apple are, nevertheless, I am quite happy to get annoyed at Apple when I'm in he cinema and hear that signature squawking.

Musically speaking those sounds are a melody or even a chord. And here is what Pavlov noticed about sounds. His research demonstrated how the mind of on animal, any animal, can be conditioned to to respond by training it with a repetitive sound and a predictable reward. Pavlov was the father of a branch of psychology known as behaviourism. And make no mistake about it you (and I) are under the spell of the authors of each and everyone of those application sounds, the jingles, the chimes, the characteristic beeps and boops. And that is the very thing that kills attention.

It is not the sound per se that does it, no not at all, it's the biological program of actions the we each will undertake when the bell is rung. At the end of the sequence of events there is a reward, it is the same reward the exists at then end of an opium addicts craving, it is the satisfaction of a dopamine release. You know the ahhhh after a sip of a well earned drink? Well that is exactly what dopamine sounds like. Pissssssst, glug glug glug, sip ... ahhhhhhh.

So her is the order of events: a message is generated, the data is sent, the app responds with a sound byte, you hear that, and the promise of reward makes ou take all the steps to find the source, the origin of he sound, i.e. the app. so ou disengage with wha ou are doing, unlock the phone, flick aroudn the screen or scroll or what ever "find" entails, look at the thing and repll or ignore. That process contains many steps right, i mean compared to looking up from the towel as someone walks past in swimwear. The mind was severed from the original task multiple times on the way to dicover the messge. And to add insult to injury while you are distracted the other more silent messages will be presented to nibble at your mind, ntil ou are on the slippery slope that ind in a ribit hole and poof off ou go to into the maelstromof noise.

Like I said earlier I this article is not pretneding to e perfectly acurate, obviously it is just sellf reflection and articulated obsercations, but I do believe it to be 100% true for me, and probabl in the upper most percentile for ou too. (Do let me know)

Right so believe it or not that is not what i wanted to ralk about. What I wanted to tell ou is that I bought a very old piece of equipment to mitigate this nafwerious dopamine daemon enterely. I bought a SmartAlpa NEO2. This device is a cripled lap top. It can't connect to the intrnate at all, it has one or two programs installed, it has no mouse, or even a screen, it has no speakers of headphone connectivity, or bluetooth. All it has is a 700hour battery life, and very low res display, that cant present images at all, and it had one of the most pleasant keyboards i have ever touched. It is clicky, very clicky, it sounds good, and the more i type the more of those lovely sounds i hear and if type reall fast well the sounds are making me feel fantastic so naturally i try to type as fast as i can to hear all the lovely clicky stuff in my mind, and then all of a sudden i notice the are pages and pages of words. I still i just dont care about those word, coz that click sound is too damn foog to stop. Man i just dont even want to sleep anymore jSo clicky. So clacky. I am now more a dopeamine addict than ever. Call me rex, rex pavlov. BUT. this kind of dopamine is highly creative, it is uninterupted and it is recursive.

As someone wo likes writing but neveer owned a yourwritter, ti the mechanical macine sence of the word, this is the first itme i can onestly say i understand the feelling of writing. I understand ow the snap of kets against paper, and the ping of the vell at the end of a line of text and the automatic reach and retuen of the carrige to the new line, all those phisically markers , all srimulating your mind, on each ketstroke, on each carrge shift, and that in combination with the smell of the ink in the ribbon and the crank of the drum of whirr as you yanked a page out, only to align an freash clean sheet and register the page and dial it into position, and to start agin with a gentle but frantic urge to do one more page, all of that makes sense now. all of it!

Sentimetally of couse. My grandmother had a typewritter and I wrote my first book on that typewritter when I was visting her on holiday as a little boy, it was a book to me, and peraps only a paragraph to everyone else, and i recall those sensations vaguely. Nevertheless, I can feel that phyiscal feeling of the writting prosess and i am grateul to have discovered this old of of date, dinasaur of tecnolify. since today is the first time i have ever used it and this is the very first thing i have writtin with it, i am sure a love affair has just begun.

I cant wait to throw it at a short story.

Yours sincerly Bruce