From the presidential primaries that have turned into something of a circus to heartwarming stories about dogs saving children’s lives, consuming news on our favorite apps and websites has become a reflex. But it can get rather overwhelming in a world where information is transmitted in the quarter of a blink of an eye thanks to the social media juggernaut. It seems that many of us are in fact addicted to news, whether or not it may be relevant to us or the lives of others. Why and how does this work? And how much news is actually good for you?
Any addiction pathway focuses on release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure center. This pathway is the premise for many addictive conditions including alcohol, gambling, motivation and even social media. It can also alter emotional responses and overall movement. Now picture the thought of reading something online during a quick restroom break, clicking a button that can make this appear in a matter of seconds, voraciously reading that snippet and repeating this routine dozens of times throughout the day. It is in fact addicting, because the results are so rapid and depending on what you read, can be quite satisfying.
How much of this should we actually be able to control? Breaking that reward pathway requires exquisite mental control, which is why many alcoholics are known to relapse at some point in their lives. Now the comparison between being addicted to alcohol and online news apps is a far-fetched one, but the core concept remains the same. Limit yourself to news that you feel will only help you propel through the day, without wearing down your mood or affecting your focus on work/school. We are all guilty of scrolling through things that we may not actually need to read, but exercising the 80/20 rule is not impossible (80 percent beneficial vs. 20 percent guilty pleasure). It may require a little bit of a jolt in your dopaminergic pathway, but it can start with just one less click.