Getting Addicted to Time-Wasting on the Internet is Easier Than You Think
Uh-oh, looks like wasting time on the Internet is easy for us to get into, at least biologically. Worse, our biology also chemically rewards such behavior.
To make a long story short, dopamine—the same neurotransmitting checmical linked to feelings of happiness and fulfillment—also rewards us when we successfully make “intellectual connections” and divine “meaning”. In other words, that’s why you feel so compelled to follow links in Wikipedia, or Google for new terms as they enter your consciousness. Dopamine makes you feel good whenever you discover the history of your favorite TV show, or the scientific processes that drive a microprocessor.
There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but the source article on Slate implies somewhat that this quest for new (and sometimes ultimately useless information) can turn into an addiction of sorts. The way we are made actually encourages this to happen, as our brain can easily hardwire to accomodate a state of constant seeking and finding. So those three-hour long Wikipedia-Google sessions become easier to fall into the more it’s done.
While it may not be as debilitating as obsession with pharmaceuticals, the continuously entertaining and never-ending quest for stuff online may make us “less likely to meet… real needs.” Have you ever been late to that important meeting or hot date, thanks to an unwillingness to pull yourself from the computer? Or how about forgetting to pre-schedule that blog post, since you were busy sniffing out info on a totally unrelated current event?