I recently saw a photo of a summer day at the beach from the 1920’s, and I was struck by the way those people were dressed. They were almost fully clothed as they waded in the water. There was very little skin showing. My first thought was, how much of a repressive time that must have been to live in when people could not simply wear a bathing suit to the beach. But then I wondered which time was more oppressive, then or now? The obvious answer would be, then. The picture was clear. Women weren’t allowed to wear bikinis at the beach or even a one-piece; and men wore long pants and weren’t allowed to go shirtless. Today, we live in a much more free and liberating time. But I wonder if we have become slaves of our own freedom.
In her book, Dopamine Nation, Dr. Anna Lembke, an expert on addiction, warns that we are all becoming addicts to a certain degree. The smartphone has become the “modern-day hypodermic needle” that we turn to it for quick hits of dopamine, from the images, the videos, the attention, the validation that we receive every time we swipe the screen. TikTok and Instagram are the biggest offenders. Some image or video pops on the screen for 5 to 10 seconds merely to give the viewers a quick dose of dopamine across their brains. That is not the way our brains were meant to work or at least it’s not the way that our brains work most productively.
You walk into a restaurant, and invariable see four people sitting around a table facing one another, with their heads down looking at their phones. Why are they engaged with their phones and not with the live people sitting across from them? They are not actually doing that by choice. Something inside them is compelling them to stare down at their phones, looking at some meaningless, nonsensical image on their screens, to take a bite of the eye candy their screen is offering rather than engage in a mature conversation with three of their friends. They needed that shot of dopamine into the pleasure centers of their brain that their screens trigger.
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