If you feel like you're addicted to texting, it turns out there might be a good reason for that. As far as your brain is concerned, getting a text is basically like having an orgasm. Well, sort of.
Basically, this all goes back to dopamine, a chemical that's key to the brain's pleasure and reward seeking systems. It's involved in everything from addiction to motivation to love. Any time you've ever felt really, really good about something, you probably had a lot of dopamine going on in your brain. And predictably, just about the biggest possible release of dopamine comes from an orgasm. Because, well, duh. But it turns out that getting a text can also trigger a dopamine release.
Though, obviously, there's something of a difference in scale.
Still, the release of dopamine functions in similar ways in both cases. Dopamine, according to the latest research, causes people to want, to seek out, and to desire — and not just physical stuff like sex, but all stuff, including things like knowledge, ideas, or connection. So when you text someone, you're wanting something, namely information or just a response; and assuming the person you're texting is good about responding, you're hit with almost instant gratification. Whatever you wanted to know, whatever connection you were craving, you get it right away.
It's the sort of thing that makes your brain super happy.
This phenomenon isn't just confined to texting. A lot about our modern life involves instant gratification, from social media to Netflix to the simple act of being able to access any information via the miracle that is Google. As far as brain chemistry goes, it's heaven.
So if you feel like you're addicted to texting, there's actually a pretty good neuro-chemical reason for that. It turns out that just because we get instant gratification, that doesn't cause the dopamine loop to shut down. Dopamine is still there, still causing us to keep seeking. So we keep texting, keep tweeting, keep re-watching the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer, keep looking up celebrity gossip. Because in the end we're all dopamine fiends.
This also explains our love/hate relationship with those indicators that let us know someone is typing. Instead of the instant gratification we're looking for, we're getting these taunting little dots. Aren't they evil?
So as Internet gets faster and instant gratification gets more and more common, what is that going to mean for our society and our brains? I mean, Google basically invented a phone you can wear on your face because getting your phone out of your pocket is too much of a delay to gratification. So in the future, is everyone in the world going to be locked into a constant dopamine loop? Food for thought...