Have you ever wondered why people buy dozens of info-products… and yet never seem to get around to consuming them, much less using them?
And for a long time I just blamed it on people being lazy. In my own case, I blamed it on being too busy with client work to get around to some of those extracurricular learning pursuits not necessary to my daily work.
But there is now new research that discounts “The Laziness Theory” and “The I’m-Too-Busy Theory.”
Turns out, it’s not that people are lazy or unwilling to take “massive action” — it’s simply that living an always-on wired life causes people to become addicted to new information.
Addicted to Information?
I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Check out this article — Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price — by Matt Ritchel.
As Ritchel explains, scientists have discovered that reacting to a never-ending stream of “information bursts” causes the brain to become excited and release dopamine, which in turn causes feelings of happiness.
As Wikipedia reports, “Dopamine is commonly associated with the reward system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person proactively to perform certain activities.”
So let’s connect the dots…
- Whereas, responding to “information bursts” causes the brain to release dopamine;
- And, whereas, dopamine reinforces the behavior that produced it;
- Thus, replying to emails, tweets, Facebook updates, forum threads, and other forms of real-time interruptions can lead to compulsive behavior, possibly even addiction.
If you’re not careful, you could find yourself checking email dozens of times a day, replying to text messages the minute they arrive, logging onto Twitter multiple times an hour, checking for Facebook updates, seeing what’s popular on Digg…
…and on and on and on in a never-ending dopamine-reinforcement loop.
It’s a dangerous, time-sucking, attention-killing cycle.
Social Media: The Drug of Choice in the 21st Century
Once you’re hooked on social media — with your cell phone in your pocket and your laptop on the kitchen table — you’re little more than a human version of Pavlov’s dog:
- Every time you hear (or see) a notification, you respond immediately…
- Your brain rewards you with a little more dopamine…
- And the cycle becomes a little bit stronger, a little bit harder to break.
The negative side effects of constant distraction (a.k.a. “multi-tasking”) are many.
Ritchel reports, “While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.”
Let’s not beat around the bush here. Research has plainly shown that multitaskers get less done and are more stressed out than people who focus on a single task at a time.
So I think it’s reasonable to ask: Are email and social media keeping you from success? While you’re pondering this, let me tell you…
Why People Pay Good Money for Information…
… Information They Don’t Need and Will Never Use!
Stress and decreased productivity are not the only consequences of an always-online, always-distracted lifestyle.
You may also find yourself inexplicably compelled to buy information — even information you don’t need and will never use.
This is because multitasking literally rewires your brain.
Recent tests conducted at Stanford “showed multitaskers tended to search for new information rather than accept a reward for putting older, more valuable information to work.”
Are you feeling compelled to buy yet another home study course even though you have multiple home study courses gathering dust on your shelves?
Or are you wanting to sign up for another membership site even though you already have multiple online memberships that you never use?
Well, now you know why.
The More Distracted You Are, the More Money Marketers Make
Marketers like to whine about how hard it is to sell to people who are distracted… how there’s so much competition for people’s attention that it’s hard to make a buck.
I think there’s some truth to this. But I think there’s more truth on the flip side of this argument.
Here’s my theory: The more distracted you are, the more money marketers make.
That’s because the more caught up you become in the distraction-dopamine cycle, the more likely it is you’ll continue to reinforce those positive feelings by seeking out new information.
And the more you seek out new information, the easier it will be for marketers to sell you “secrets” you think you don’t yet possess.
Which means: Not only does multitasking rob you of your productivity, it robs your bank account, too!
Now you know why all the gurus want you to follow them on email, Twitter, and Facebook.
They want you to be distracted.
Because the more distracted and confused you are, the easier it will be for them to get your credit card number — and sell you yet another overpriced course you’ll never use.
With that in mind, don’t you think it’s time to reconsider your use of social media?
Tips for Breaking Information Addiction
(And Taking Back Your Life)
In spite of the risks, I don’t necessarily recommend swearing off cell phones and social media. So here are a few suggestions for getting value out of social technology without letting it rule your life:
- Limit your connections. Connect only with people you really want to connect with. Don’t follow just to be followed.
- Tether social media profiles together so you can control multiple profiles from a single control panel or with a single RSS feed.
- Spend no more than 30 minutes a day on social media. Set aside a specific time to update your profiles and reply to people.
- Turn your cell phone off to block unplanned interruptions. Being accessible all the time should not be a badge of honor.
- Use a tool like RescueTime.com to block distracting web sites during periods of focus time.
- Be cautious about spending money on new information, especially if you have information you’ve paid for that you haven’t used yet.
As we sail deeper into the uncharted waters of the 21st Century, I believe one of the keys to success will increasingly become a person’s ability to block out distractions and focus on completing one task at a time.
Ultimately, self-control and constant vigilance win the day.