An addiction to information
I am a self-improvement information addict. No, seriously, I’m addicted to learning all the information there is to know related to self-improvement. Wait, isn’t that a good thing? While an information addiction is relatively harmless, all addictions chip away at a person’s overall effectiveness. If I want to be my best self, I must minimize the addictive tendencies in my life (well maybe not an addiction to love 🙂 ). I’ve become more aware of those tendencies over the past few years, especially compared to the days when I played WoW (World of Warcraft) blindly for hours at a time. I’ve kicked some addictions (video games and cheezits), made others weaker (biting my nails), and have taken steps back with others (information). Signs of addiction include developing a tolerance that requires higher and higher doses, shame or embarrassment, damage to your health or relationships, and thinking about said substance/activity excessively. If the pursuit of information generates any of those tendencies, then it has become an addiction. We’ve become so saturated with information at our fingertips that we barely even recognize how strange this really is. It pervades our environment, like water around fish, without us even realizing it. Score tickers below sporting events on ESPN, news notifications popping up on our phones as we scroll through our email, and countless advertisements in infinite forms vying for our attention. No wonder I’ve developed an addiction to information.
I recently started thinking about this due to a podcast I’ve begun to listen to: Bulletproof Radio starring Dave Asprey: https://blog.bulletproof.com/category/podcasts/. In a recent episode entitled, Hacking Addiction, Asprey has a captivating conversation with Dr. Mark Atkinson about a wide range of addiction-related topics. One insight that immediately struck me was, “that sometimes it’s not about the amount of time you spend indulging in the addiction,…, it’s the amount of time you spend thinking about it,” (Bulletproof, 22:00). I knew instantly that it related to my information addiction. I spend a lot of time thinking about the next book I’ll read or the next video I want to watch. Upon further reflection, I do suppose I have developed a tolerance as well. It takes a larger quantity or a deeper lesson for me to get the same hit. The damage to health or relationships for me comes mostly in the form of opportunity cost. Would it be more beneficial for me to watch another 30 minute video or to go out and actually talk to people? Probably the latter. Would it be better to get 8 hours of sleep and not read for an hour or read and get 7 hours of sleep? An athlete like me should get at least 8 hours of sleep. I have the symptoms of an addiction. Now what should I do about it?
I recently finished The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond. Within it, Diamond speaks a bit about addiction and our preoccupation with using drugs to innoculate ourselves. He reaches back for an evolutionary explanation for addiction and it starts with how animals use immediate signals to drive off predators or attract mates. Diamond uses gazelles as an example because fast gazelles ‘stot’, which is when they jump up in the air a few times in place when they notice a predator. You would think a gazelle should run away from a dangerous pursuer as quickly as possible, however, their ‘stotting’ trick dissuades a predator from even bothering to give chase. A slow gazelle doesn’t ‘stot’ because they will definitely get caught, while fast gazelles have the luxury to do it. Our use of drugs and forays into other harmful behaviors may be a result of our biology still favoring these kinds of signals. We want to show potential mates that we are superior and at a primal level, drinking, smoking, and other risky behaviors send out that signal. “To do it chronically and remain alive and healthy, I must be superior (so I imagine)” (Diamond, 199). There’s no doubt that other factors play into our drug usage and other addictions, but evolutionary reasons play an unquestioned part as well. Side note: One thing that always surprises me is how so much about how we live now is completely unusual compared to what we are evolutionarily meant to experience. Evolution has not prepared us for the internet, big cities, or readily available food/drugs/sex/any other vice. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were extremely fortunate if they had surpluses of food to go around. They rarely, if ever, had to deal with situations where they could indulge themselves on delicious food. Hence, obesity in today’s world. My genes are probably under the impression that maintaining an information addiction while holding together a semblance of a put together life makes me more attractive to prospective mates. Lol. We definitely have to take our biology into account when managing our addictive behaviors.
Science has taught us that addiction centers around dopamine in the brain. When we take a hit, dopamine spikes, and then we build a dependency on that activity to get the same dopamine spike. Addictions can prompt dopamine resistance in your brain and that’s why you need bigger and bigger hits. L-Tyrosine is one supplement that can help you overcome addiction because it improves the synthesis of dopamine in your brain. When your brain works correctly with dopamine you will be more focused, motivated, and engaged. A supplement like L-Tyrosine targets the biologic causes of addiction, which is necessary for people to truly overcome their addictions. I may give it a try at some point.
One of the biggest takeaways from the Bulletproof podcast is that energy is the basis for all change in the world, including the changes we want to make in our own lives. You can’t fight an addiction if you don’t have the energy to do so. You can tell an out of shape person to get their butt to the gym, though the reason they haven’t made it down to the gym in the first place usually has to do with their energy levels. ‘I don’t feel like it’ equals ‘I don’t have the energy’. ‘I don’t have time for it’ equals ‘I would prefer to do something that requires less energy’. We’re all either using our momentum to build energy, capacity, and improve performance or else our lack of momentum causes a stagnation of energy, and a degradation in the quality of our lives. Addictions suck energy out of us. Not only from a personal health impact, but also from the drain in willpower and the shame we feel because of them. They slurp up our physical energy, mental energy, and emotional energy. Without sufficient energy on those levels, how can we ever get in touch with the spiritual life energy? No wonder why so many people live life without passion, without meaning. They don’t have the energy to!
After all of this writing, I still haven’t come up with a concrete plan to work on my addiction. First off, awareness and admitting I have a problem is the first step to resolving that problem. Check. Secondly, I will keep track of how much time I spend surfing the web. Thirdly, I will limit myself to reading one book a month in an attempt to fully internalize the information I receive. Beyond those steps, I will make sure to keep my energies up through proper sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, laughter, and an overall love of life. Vamos a ver como baila Lucas.
Here are two other quotes from the podcast that stood out for me:
- “One of the hallmarks of personal development is the ability to face reality, to live in reality. We come up with the elaborate scheme of distraction and it can look to the untrained eye as ‘Wow it’s great that you’re looking at productivity, hacking life, etc.’, but actually it’s a distraction from the pink elephant in the living room. There’s normally one thing that you really need to pay attention to that will give you the greatest insight, transformation, or reward if you’re willing to look at it. It’s normally with relationships or with addictions. That’s where you want to put your energy. It’s much easier to be distracted by reading books or going onto the internet than it is to face reality. It takes great courage to face reality,” (Bulletproof, 51:00). Quit running. Turn and face reality. That is how I will live life to the fullest.
- “What that means is that some people just love the experience of it but they’re not depending upon it. Which is like they have this innate sense of well-being and aliveness, they take great care of themselves, their relationships, they’re engaged in life. They don’t need it to feel whole, they don’t need it to feel alive but they choose to do it because they have a significant interest. If it’s something out of joy versus out of need it’s a huge difference there” (31:00).
In other news, I have a big breakthrough alert. I found my slider. The big wipeout one. It’s not on the hook and in the boat yet, but it’s been sighted. Before bed one night I was holding a baseball and out of nowhere, I decided that I was going to hold my slider a new way. Only a slight change to the grip. It felt right. Somehow, a part of me knew this adjustment would be the one. My slider was my best pitch back when I was at the peak of my pitching ability, yet it was also the pitch that caused my elbow injury. Now, I believe I have found a way to throw it with the same nastiness, without putting undue stress on my arm. I threw the new slider to hitters at our club’s training the next day. They were beyond promising. Sharp and significant break. One was perfect. In under the hands of a righty. Now you see me. Now I’m gone. Wipeout swing. I wasn’t able to contain my joy. Seek and you shall find. Even if it takes over 19 months. The pieces are all falling back into place. There’s a lot more progress to be made over the coming weeks and I’ll be loving every moment of it. Suerte!