Social Media and Photography Contribute to it Too

When the military pushed for the invention of the microwave, little did they know this new technology would turn “mamma-made” enchiladas and lasagna into store bought boxes of convenience meals.  Though the food industry tries to make you believe it’s better than homemade, it normally doesn’t taste like mamma’s, but ironically, it’s more addicting. Similar to professionally produced photographic portraits giving way to selfies, life is filled with addictions thanks to the dopamine loop.

Military Photo, Dopamine Loop

The military has been the source of many great inventions including the microwave.

When it comes to food, medical experts and scientists blame it on things like GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), processed food, and artificial flavoring amongst other food technology that causes a dopamine “hijacked” brain—and the same is said happens when smart phones produce selfies and the access it provides us to social media. We’ve gone from a hi-tech, to a hi-touch society through cell phones not skin cells thanks to the dopamine loop.

Medical experts and scientists have proven that food technology has altered food to trigger our bodies to release increased amounts of dopamine to the area of the brain known as Nucleus Accumbens. This causes a powerful reward effect on our brain receptors, similar to that of cocaine and nicotine, that we become addicted to certain foods, many which cause overeating and other health issues. The same happens with social media through digital technology, and if we’re eating food created by technology as we investigate the latest on Instagram, chances are we experience a double dose of the dopamine loop.

Social media, especially when it causes us to create and share photos, does the same; it releases dopamine plus impacts our opioid system and can destroy or alter people’s lives—it’s scary, it’s an addiction, it is the dopamine loop.

Dr. Robert H. Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist, and Dr. Elissa S. Epel, psychologist, explain how sugar and junk foods can “hijack” your brain to make you crave more of what you don’t need in your body, thanks to food technology.

According to Susan Weinschenk, PhD, in a Psychology Today article and her The Team W Blog, “Instead of dopamine causing you to experience pleasure, the latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search.” She further states that, “dopamine controls the ‘pleasure’ systems of the brain…” and the opioid system “…makes us feel pleasure.”

“According to researcher Kent Berridge, these two systems, the ‘wanting’ (dopamine) and the ‘liking’ (opioid) are complementary. The wanting system propels you to action and the liking system makes you feel satisfied and therefore pause your seeking. If your seeking isn’t turned off at least for a little while, then you start to run in an endless loop. The dopamine system is stronger than the opioid system. You tend to seek more than you are satisfied.“

She goes on to talk about the “dopamine loop,” and “instant gratification” caused by social media, “It’s easy to get in a dopamine induced loop. Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking….” She further states, “This constant stimulation of the dopamine system can be exhausting. And the constant switching of attention makes it hard to get anything accomplished.”

Research at Harvard and other prominent universities by scholars have found that “the need to create a photo is elevated by the need to share that same photo on social networks” because sharing an immediate creative experience with others is “brain candy.” It’s all connected to the “dopamine loop.” We seek affirmation (likes and comments) through our social media addiction and the easiest form of receiving that affirmation is through the creation and sharing of photos for others to “like.”

Five years ago when I wrote an article on how hi-tech has evolved to hi-touch, or touching through virtual screens (texting) vs. physical touching, little did I know then that it was caused by this dopamine loop. In fact, in my recent article, “Like Me, My Life Depends On It,” I called photography a “social media drug,” and now I understand why it’s more of a brain-produced drug than a mirror of reality.

It seems like we’re losing our human touch in this wireless world of emails, texting, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Wii, X-Box, Kindles, iPads, etc., instead of spending quality time with our friends, family and significant others. Just ask your virtual neighbor if they know the name of their mailman—I bet they don’t. Heck, some probably don’t even know their neighbors, yet it’s funny, how they know more about their virtual “friends or followers” they’ve never met.

The easiest way to curb this social media addiction, according to Weinschenk, is to “turn off the cues.” She recommends that you turn off the “automatic notifications” on your digital communication devices to help “prevent or stop a dopamine loop.” She claims that these cues “are actually causing you to be like a rat in a cage.” She states that these cues have a “Pavlovian” effect that “enhances the addictive affect” and “stimulates the dopamine system.”

Photography is no different, when our subjects see their likeness for the first time in a photo we create, they experience a dopamine shot as does the photographer from their positive reaction of the images we’ve provided. I’ve always said, “I get pleasure out of pleasing others through my photography.” I guess you could say that it’s the dopamine loop pleasure  that photography provides photographers and makes us feel good in what we do.

Unfortunately I don’t have no photos of mamma cooking, her cooking has given way to technology just like the human handshake interaction has lost its touch to telecommuting, teleconferencing and social networking. Perhaps we’ll shift back to more human touching when that teleporter is invented that will beam us up.

Well I’ve got to go, mamma’s calling on FaceTime, but as always, I ask you to please don’t forget those who protect our freedoms plus their families and friends. God Bless them! Rolando

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