I have a problem with dopamine

You got it too. Everyone has it, actually. The first step to dealing with this problem is acknowledging that you have it.
Jerzy Rajkow 4 min read
I have a problem with dopamine

That is why I was very unhappy using my smartphone. Probably people who don’t have problems with dopamine are not feeling about it the same way as I did. I felt as if I lost control over how I use my smartphone.

Are you a potential addict?

We all have dopamine receptors and pathways that regulate our motivation and drive. So maybe everyone is a potential smartphone addict? And it’s just a matter of how much you use it and for how long?

How to solve the problem?

So I have a problem with dopamine and I have to solve it. The most obvious answer to that is:

by limiting the use of your dopamine inducing things.

That is because dopamine is not actually working as most YouTubers say — by “spikes”, but it’s rather a “base level” thing. You can read more about this mechanism in the excellent book by Anna Lembke “Dopamine Nation”.

So if you consume daily lots of dopamine inducing things like:

  • multimedia,
  • smartphone notifications,
  • coping with your stress by (i) going on WhatsApp, or by (ii)texting people, or by (iii) checking your YouTube comments, or by (iv)tweeting,
  • gaming,
  • watching porn,
  • eating sugary treats,
  • drinking alcohol.

So, if you do those things, your base level of dopamine is raising and it stays higher than it was before you started doing those activities. What it causes is that

other things that you should be doing in your life are not as appealing and as attractive as they should be.

So, your relationships with real people are less interesting, less appealing. The effort needed to learn something appears to be unbearable. Heck, even going through a handful of pages of your favourite book suddenly becomes boring and uncomfortable.

In order to counteract this, you have to lower the base level of dopamine you are experiencing daily. Suddenly, those things that normally are important to you,

start looking appealing again.

This is a process that takes from 30 to 60 days. Yeah. So if you want to try it, don’t make the YouTube-friendly “seven days of something”, because it will change nothing actually. Make it 60 days!

After the first 15 days you will start noticing some improvement, but it’s after 30 days the improvement will be really noticeable in your life. At first, you will experience the withdrawal symptoms from the dopamine-inducing activities, but in parallel you will also experience the increased interest in those “long term” things that are really important to you. This should keep you motivated to go through the whole 60 days.

Dopamine-hacking is like tobacco or sugar

I’m seeing a lot of similarities between today’s discourse about dopamine hacking/inducing products and how mainstream media wrote about tobacco in the sixties or about sugar in the late nineties. For a long time, it was not a problem, media outlets financed by big corporations blamed consumers on the adverse effects of using those addictive substances and suddenly the script flipped and there was no coming back.

Even as early as five years ago, there were very few sources that said openly that sugar was bad for your long term health. There were some ideas to tax sugary products, but it was really seen as something very early and crazy. How is the landscape today? Much different!

Smartphones will go the same route, because all that you see today, all that you understand today about addictive and extractive business models is shared by a very small fraction of the society, roughly 2%.

I believe it will be common knowledge in 2025 and beyond.

Why? Because of the algorithms! Every creator, every portal, every YouTube channel will be talking about it, since it’ll generate clicks!

The need to differentiate

Furthermore, the smartphone market is already saturated. And it will get worse. Some of you in the Western world, of course are carrying more than one smartphone today, but really you don’t need them. Now, in the rest of the world, I think that we have crossed half of humanity having smartphones. So, half of humanity have the problems with dopamine base-levels I describe.

Smartphone manufacturers have a very, very hard time selling new models today and some of them will have to differentiate themselves from the pack in order to survive. I think that Apple started to doing it with limiting the tracking that occurs on iOS. And it’ll go further. There will be manufacturers that, like the Lightphone or Punkt, will build their brands on being anti-smartphone and it’ll bleed eventually into the smartphone market itself.

There will be good Linux based smartphones in the future. They will be accessible to everyone serious about privacy in the same manner as the Fairphone today is accessible to everyone serious about the sustainability and serviceability of the phones. That’s the beauty of choice in the free world.

It will be universal

So the discourse about dopamine-hacking will be universal. Everybody will make sure to not consume dopamine-inducing things, just like today most of intelligent people are not consuming sugar — because they know that it causes just diseases in the long term:

  • Alzheimer’s,
  • ADHD,
  • diabetes,
  • cancers.

Those who want to live longer and in a good shape are not using sugar.

Those who want to have a high quality, rich life — will not be using dopamine-inducing products and services.

More from Digital Pragmatism
Nothing Gets Done Without It

Nothing Gets Done Without It

Let's face it - timeblocking can be a difficult and stressful process to get started with and maintain. But, when done right, it can be an incredibly helpful tool to optimize your productivity.
Jerzy Rajkow 1 min read
AI is a Commodity

AI is a Commodity

The commodification of AI could also lead to its widespread use in trivial or unimportant tasks, rendering it less valuable than it could be. Smartphones are a good example of this phenomenon – once a cutting-edge development, they are now ubiquitous and not particularly innovative.
Jerzy Rajkow 1 min read

Digital Pragmatism

Intentional technology use. Mindful productivity.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Digital Pragmatism.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.