Digi Detox

There’s a new diet that’s becoming popular. Is it a fad or a critical remedy for digital addiction? How does a dopamine fasting diet look like? “Please don’t get worried if you can’t reach me or don’t hear from me till 10 am tomorrow,” messaged 32 year old Chaitanya.. Chaitanya had just commenced his 24 hour long dopamine fast.  This sudden increase in phone usage across the world didn’t happen overnight. It happened gradually, starting from a tiny molecule in our brains called dopamine. Here’s what happened: When you got your first smartphone, you probably did some things that made you feel good. connecting with friends, reading a nice text message from a friend, or getting a notification. All of these activities caused the release of dopamine.

What’s dopamine? It’s a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. Our brains are designed to release dopamine when we do something that meets a survival need, like eating. Countless studies have shown that phone activity causes the release of dopamine in our brains, making us feel aroused, motivated, and happy. But in those first few months of phone usage, you also probably did a few mundane things that didn’t give you any sort of warm, excited feeling, like mindlessly scrolling through oddly satisfying videos on Instagram or looking at pictures of a stranger. But each time you did something that prompted the release of dopamine, your brain started to notice a pattern. Soon enough, your brain began to associate ‘cell phone’ with ‘dopamine.’ And since your brain naturally craves easy hits of dopamine, it started to crave your phone. Digital addiction had commenced. 

The most addictive smartphone functions all share a common theme: they tap into the human desire to connect to other people. Why? It’s rooted in evolution. As humans evolved, they depended on each other to survive under harsh environmental circumstances. Those who had stronger connections with other humans had a higher chance of surviving, because they had several people to support them. Particularly, the desire to monitor other humans runs deep in our evolutionary past. As humans evolved, they needed constant input from others to determine culturally appropriate behavior. This was their way to achieve meaningfulness, long-term goals, and a sense of identity. It’s no wonder that social media – and particularly posting pictures – arose to such popularity. All things considered, it looks like smartphones provide us with a platform to carry out our innate need for human connection, which is a “fundamental feature of human evolution that predates smartphones by hundreds of thousands of years,”

Download an app that tracks your phone usage, and start paying attention to how many times you pick up your phone each day. Do try dopamine fasting diet. If you start to work towards decreasing that number by just 10 or 20 a day, the benefits may just surprise you too.