Think of the biggest addictions that modern world suffers today. Almost all of them is designed to abuse one simple human behavior to make their owners enormous amounts of profits. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, online computer games, gambling and many others use anticipation masterfully to make users addicted to their products. Even if you haven't recognized yet, you are one of them.
Lesson Learned from Rats
Before going any further, I want to talk about a simple experiment on rats. This experiment started giving rats meal at a fixed rate, 2 times a day. Scientist also scientist put some led lights and before giving the meals, they turned the lights on. After some time they observed that rats started to get exited only when they see the lights, but they didn't show any significant reaction when they really got their meals. After some time, scientists decided to give meals on random rate instead of fixed rate, and this change caused even more stimulation when the lights are on. What really interesting is, then scientists decided to not to give a meal after every time they turned the lights on. It means rats weren't going to get a meal every time they see the lights. This negative change for rats only caused even more excitement when they see the lights. And this shows the exact principles of anticipation right there. It's not about to get the reward. It's about having the excitement of being about to get a reward, and it gets even more exciting if you aren't sure if you're going to get it at all.
How Anticipation Makes Us Addicted
Metaphorically speaking, it all started with the invention of the mouse wheel. This simple technology allowed us to get constant and continuous stimulus just by moving our tip of our fingers. Think of all the popular social media. It works like a slot machine. You pull the lever, then you wait if you're lucky enough to get the reward. You roll the mouse wheel and wait for your reward. Sometimes you get really funny fail video or a picture full of cute puppies and you get your reward in some form of stimulus. But just like the slot machine, also like in the rat experiment you don't always get the reward. In addition to the slot machine and the rat experiment, in social media you also don't know the type of the reward you will get so it makes your experience even more exciting. As a result you are in a cage of endless anticipation. Your brain is evolved to never get enough of it. It's not like having a very good meal and being satisfied in the end. It's not about satisfaction, it's about the opposite, anticipation.
What to do?
Lets make things clear. Anticipation is never our enemy. It's the source of excitement in our life. Furthermore it's essential for a healthy life. But in the age of internet, under all these stimulation bombard of digital media we should make some radical, conscious and wise decisions to anticipate to things that will likely get us some meaningful and satisfying rewards. Most of the things that you spend your life on because of their power to anticipate you, never going to give you any meaningful and satisfying rewards.
I will write more about the effects of these addictions on our life, why it's really important to get rid of these addictions
and how to do it.