I truly enjoy analyzing the personal habits of myself and those around me. It’s a character trait that somehow, most of the in depth horoscopes out there seem to predict very well. I don’t do it to be judgemental, but to understand the motives, mindsets and rationalizations behind people’s actions. It is what creates most of my ideas for content and helps me to empathize and understand behaviours I see in myself and others. This past weekend I was driving on the highway with a good friend of mine when an incident occurred that sparked up a long and creative conversation that lead us onto a variety of topics. While blasting down the road far above the speed limit, we changed our lane to let a car travelling even faster pass by. For whatever reason, this lady drove past us with all kinds of fingers in the air and what lip reading told me were some pretty aggressive comments. Her scowl didn’t help. The question of how is it that any individual could be so offset over our 15 second highway interaction was mind boggling to both of us. All that anger and stress just to end up 30 feet ahead of us in traffic. While there was no way for us to know the personal situation of this woman, we both agreed that the given circumstance was likely a first world problem at best, and our chat proceeded down a similar path. It is sometimes wild to think of how much unnecessary complication we throw into our lives in the form of stress. Life is much more simple than people living in the developed world often make it out to be.
There are communities around the world where the inhabitants are poorer than we can even imagine. They live in third world circumstances where the concept of entering a “workforce” doesn’t even exist. Their version of getting a job is simply to hustle and brainstorm whatever method they can utilize over the foreseeable future to stack a few pennies. The ironic thing about this, is that these individuals are often happier than most anybody in the first world. They don’t feel pressure to live a certain way or accumulate a massive bank account. They are able to simply enjoy and appreciate whatever it is that they do have going for them. On my first big trip abroad I noticed this trend everywhere. Locals in these towns lived more simply than I had ever seen before, regardless of their financial status. Those considered “wealthy” by local standards simply had a driveway, a better lawn, or maybe a newer surfboard. They didn’t crave a luxurious home or car, because they didn’t need it. Their families were together and they lived near the beach. Those two things alone were often enough.
As young adults in the modern day, we are living out a social phenomenon that never ceases to amaze me. The complication that technology brings into our reality is still incomprehensible, but it is certainly apparent. Everywhere we look, the world is stimulating us in new and perplexing ways. Our attentions have shrunk and our addiction to the short fix is now beyond control. We are like crack addicts, except with Snapchat, Instagram, and nicer shoes. I have the same millennial ADD as the rest of us, and it gives me the creeps to realize how significantly my cell phone use can affect my mood. At times I catch myself constantly checking for any kind of notification, as if this action has become some kind of subconscious auto-response, programmed from years of time wasted on social media. Sometimes deleting apps from my phone entirely seems like the best option for breaking this pattern. These feelings and habits are based upon a literal addiction to the quick boost of dopamine received from external validation. We have come to appreciate short lasting highs as a feeling that is actually real and of substance. Hint: just like all the sugar coated content we see on our phones, it isn’t. Instant gratification is now an expectation and we are beginning to falsely attach these brief hormone spikes to our understanding of processes that are absolutely long form in nature. I am beginning to prescribe to a small belief that our subconscious obsession with stimulation is causing us to detach from the seemingly boring nature of real life progress. I may be simply imagining the thought that complacency is prevalent among millennials, but if this turns out to be true, I would put money on the fact that technological bombardment is a major variable. The thing nobody realizes about constant dopamine spikes, is that they eventually come to lower our baseline hormonal levels. A phenomenon that is now being linked to a whole host of personal and mental issues. If you have ever read into it, this is the exact argument behind the growing modern anti-porn movement.
“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master” – Christian Lous Lange
There was a time when everything in life was a long term game. People actually migrated to countries like our own, signing their lives away to work like slaves building infrastructure and railroads. They found comfort in the thought that one day, though closely followed by death, their foot would finally be in the door. Of course this is a drastic comparison. The world has changed tremendously since times like this, but things like love, success (however you personally define it) and happiness still rarely ever happen in the short term. They are not derived from a collective series of short highs, but from long term experience and learning. Real connection with anything, or anybody takes time to develop. It is part of a process where we are constantly leveling up, learning and understanding more about these things as we go deeper. The media and advertising world has taught the public to value quick solutions in areas of our lives where they simply do not belong.
While the life throws at us are likely a lot more simple than we realize, they certainly have no quick fix. Don’t let that dopamine boost fool you.