TikTok’s latest viral wellness trend encourages people to take a short, sharp break from the pleasures of social media, TV, movies, and the music too
As just about anyone who has found themselves a slave to their iPhone will tell you, interacting with the endless stream of online content often leaves us feeling dirty, uninspired, and guilty. The research states that there is a correlation between excessive use of phones and negative effects on physical and mental well-being, but as many of us know, detaching ourselves from our phones isn’t easy.
AS Education have shown, this is largely because social media use activates the reward center of the brain, as getting a lot of likes on a tweet or seeing a particularly good TikTok video floods our brain with dopamine, the same neurotransmitter that makes us feel good when we eat good food or have sex. The more often we get a social media-induced dopamine hit, the more we want to seek them out. And the more we look for them, the less exciting these hits become, keeping us scrolling in search of peers Moreover happy to give us the same level of pleasure as before.
However, as difficult as it is, many of us are continually trying to stop being so addicted to our phones. New research found that 50% of Gen Z want to take a break from their smartphones more than any other generation. Enter: the dopamine detox.
The term dopamine detox (or dopamine fast) is usually used to describe a short break from social media, although it can also include refraining from watching movies and videos or even listening to podcasts and music. The practice first caught on in the late 2010s, with entrepreneur Greg Kamphuis one of the first to publish the idea on Reddit in December 2016. The idea is to reset my motivational system and learn to focus on who I really am rather than bouncing from TV to social media to refrigerator and so on, she wrote. i’m quitting [alcohol]nicotine, caffeine, processed sugar, TV and porn.
A few years later, Dr. Cameron Sepah began using the method to help clients with behavioral addictions, and by 2019, dopamine fasting had become a popular wellness trend among tech bros and venture capitalists of Silicon Valley. For these theta male types, a typical dopamine fast would not only involve smartphone and internet abstinence, but also reading, having sex, masturbating, and even eating food. Fast forward to today, and the trend seems to have done away with these more extreme elements and entered the mainstream. At present, the #dopaminedetox Hashtags on TikTok have nearly 72 million views, with some videos racking up hundreds of thousands of likes.
I did a seven-day dopamine detox (because everyone on YouTube is talking about it and I hate being addicted to my phone, writes TikTok user Amelie in a movie which has amassed over 1.6 million views. For her detox, Amelie abstained from social media, TV shows, movies, YouTube, and music (except instrumental). She says she felt anxious in the first few days but soon she started to notice a number of benefits. I went for a walk and I noticed more beautiful things around me because I wasn’t on the phone she observes her second day. She started writing a book on the third day. By her fifth day her brain fog had cleared and by the end of the detox she claims she felt calmer, less anxious, clearer in her head and more focused.
Shannon, 27, has also recently caught on to the trend after noticing a huge drop in her motivation to do mundane tasks and jobs. All I wanted to do was sit on the phone, she tells Dazed. Then she heard about the benefits of a dopamine detox on TikTok. I had tried to give up social media completely in the past and really struggled, so I decided doing it for just a couple days a week would be more attainable. During a detox, Shannon temporarily deletes the Instagram and TikTok apps from her phone, as she claims these are the apps she can fall into the mindless scrolling trap.
Like Amelie, Shannon feels best when she makes a conscious effort to reduce her screen time. At work, she says she can stay more focused on tasks and get a lot more done. At home, she no longer puts off chores by procrastinating on the phone and she feels like she has more time to do the administrative tasks of life, like returning parcels and buying birthday presents […] things seem less complicated now that i have nothing else to do. Her relationships are also improving. You’re more likely to message friends and family, instead of scrolling through strangers’ feeds and sharing photos with everyone on Instagram, she says.
I guess I approve of the practice in practical terms. But I am very wary of the way it is currently packaged and perceived by Dr. Dean Burnett
As mentioned above, there’s a clear link between high social media usage and poor mental well-being, so it tracks that people like Amelia and Shannon feel better after using their phones less. But, as with any wellness fad, it’s worth approaching the idea of a dopamine detox with a healthy dose of skepticism. On the one hand, it’s probably not a bad thing for people to voluntarily disconnect from their devices for a while, says neuroscientist Dr Dean Burnett. Our brains didn’t evolve to interact entirely with the world through a small glowing rectangle, and there are plenty of studies showing that interacting with the real world can be a healthier thing for our brains.
But she points out that she feels uneasy about the dopamine detox tendency. For one thing, isolating yourself from all devices but recording yourself doing it to share it on TikTok and get people to like it, seems…counterproductive?, she says. It’s a fair point: Is it possible to try to significantly disengage from social media if you’re recording yourself doing it to post on TikTok for likes?
His biggest concern, however, is the pseudoscientific way people talk about dopamine on social media. The definition of words seems to have ballooned in recent years and is now often invoked when speaking of literally anything that causes pleasure, a change known as concept creep. But dopamine has many other roles in many body functions, such as memory, movement, attention and motivation.
Dopamine has countless functions in our brains, many of which are vital, says Dr. Burnett. Yes, one of them is to allow for activity in the reward pathway, the part of the brain that allows us to experience pleasure, but this has, presumably, led to the assumption that dopamine is like an internally produced narcotic, giving you highs and lows. . on a regular basis as it slowly corrupts you. And that’s nowhere near how dopamine works, Dr. Burnett points out. If you truly detoxed from dopamine and cleared it from your body, you would probably be dead within minutes. At the very least, you’d be completely non-functional.
Nearly everyone who has tried abstaining from social media reports feeling great afterwards, so does it matter if they call it a dopamine detox, even though it would make more sense to call it just taking a break from social media? Dr. Burnett thinks so. I get very wary whenever I see neuroscientific terms and concepts thrown about randomly by people who clearly don’t understand them, he says. He spreads misunderstandings and flawed ideas about how our brains work and devalues the experience of those who know better. And I fear that invoking dopamine is a way to appear more credible to those who don’t actually warrant that credibility.
I guess I approve of the practice in practical terms, he speculates. But I’m very wary of the way it’s currently packaged and perceived. It is only right that words have meaning, after all, and it is important to use words correctly to avoid spreading false information or perpetuating baseless pseudoscientific ideas, especially at a time when we have a growing tendency to pathologize normal behavior and hair loss therapy speak in our everyday language. But still, even if you’re not Actually do a dopamine detox which, as Dr. Burnett says, would leave you dead or incapacitated if taking a break from social media works for you, keep it up.
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