We've all been in the meetings where there are 10 people gathered to talk about “something critical that will change the face of life as they know it,” and every single person is so busy checking their email/Twitter/LinkedIn profile that they ignore the actual meeting.
I get it, I really do. Studies have shown that dopamine levels rise when you think about checking email or sending a tweet. You want that “instant gratification” of a response from the internet. A loop is created by the dopamine level rising, and you are satisfied with the “hit” from the response to your email/tweet/update, but then you want more, so you start the dance all over again.
Interestingly, Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov and his famous dogs come into play if you hear a sound go off when you get a new email or tweet. Our dopamine system is very sensitive to audio “cues,” so when you hear that “woo ooh” when a tweet mentions you by name – your dopamine levels go through the roof and you are basically addicted to seeing what is on your screen.
Another fun fact: The dopamine system is very receptive to small chunks of “anticipated pleasure,” so those 140 characters in a tweet are just small enough to send your dopamine levels craving more.
Okay, so you are a mobile junkie. A tweeting addict. A compulsive email checker. The first step is to admit you have a problem. And please don't tweet about it.
Here are the five steps to freeing yourself from the mobile addiction:
- Turn off the audible cues – you don't need to hear every email or tweet as it comes in. Honestly, if it's that important, the person will phone you.
- Turn off the visual cues – do you want to be a rat in the cage in Room 101 (read Orwell's 1984 for more information) or do you want to be free of this monkey on your back? Remove the banners and visual notifications of new messages.
- Set a specific time to check your mobile device – 9 a.m.-10 a.m. could be your witching hour. Or it could be just after lunch. You choose. Again, if someone really needs to contact you, they can always come visit or use the phone.
- Find something else to do, apart from compulsively checking your mobile gadget. You could do actual work, read a book, visit a colleague or play some music.
- Remind yourself that YOU are in charge, not this piece of electronic devilry.
Reference materials: Kent C. Berridge and Terry E. Robinson, What is the role of dopamine in reward: hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience?: Brain Research Reviews, 28, 1998. 309–369.
David Greenfield, Virtual Addiction : Help for Netheads, Cyber Freaks, and Those Who Love Them.