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Why You Can’t Stop Scrolling: Social Media and Artificial Dopamine

Mackenzie Sheldon | Staff Writer

As creepy as it sounds, your device has more information on you than you think. Every individual has their own social media algorithm, meaning that each platform knows you well enough to show you exactly what you want to see. Whether it's the endless stream of TikTok videos, the captivating pull of Instagram Reels, or the mesmerizing charm of YouTube Shorts, each swipe sends a surge of dopamine coursing through our veins. The anticipation of the next video leads you to endlessly run your finger upwards on your screen. If you are being entertained by every single video on Reels, why would you want to stop? 

However, an innocent double-tap on a video communicates that data to TikTok, matching you with your perfect 2-hour scroll break after class. The scrolling makes you feel good, so your brain is triggered to crave more of it. The short-term and long-term effects of endless scrolling on mental health can be severe. The withdrawals a person gets from social media can be just as intense as the addiction itself. Science says that a social media addict may experience an increase in depression, loneliness, and even anxiety. 

It is easy to continue scrolling, but I encourage you to take a moment and realize how much time you spend on social media. Do you feel you are experiencing some of these symptoms of addiction? Some tips on how to disconnect are to turn off notifications, remove the app from your home screen so that you are less likely to mindlessly click on it, and unfollow pages that strictly post “brain rot”. Once you disconnect, you will find you have more time on your hands to do things that give you natural dopamine. Some activities that produce natural dopamine are meditation, listening to music, exercise, and getting sunlight. Rather than feeling we are rewarding ourselves with artificial dopamine, it's time we disconnect and reward ourselves with something real.


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