Information as a drug — information feature of giving pleasure to a person comparable to that of the savoury food, delightful physical feeling or satisfaction of achieving one’s goals.

On receipt of the new data our organism produces dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter strongly associated with the “reward system” of the brain, making us feel pleasure and satisfaction. Dopamine is naturally released in abundance as a result of fulfilling experiences such as sex, tasty food, and physical pleasures, or when a person achieves their own goals.

The experiments on rats showed that rats-addicts most likely opt to familiarize with a new object, rather than to get the next dose of the drug. Experiments with people confirmed that cognitive process brings the greatest pleasure for a human too. Reading news and getting new information offer the way to enjoy yourself virtually hands down (published by PNAS, 2010).

Information addiction

Person becomes addicted not only psychologically but also physically to information. In this regard, checking the Facebook feed, educational content or new books are hard drugs.

Instant access

Information stimulates the reward center in a brain, making surfing the Net a constant thirst for every moment of pleasure. The Internet is like a drug that gets you high almost straight away.

In a high-speed era of instant reaction, a time lag between the moment when the desire arises, and the moment it is satisfied is headily narrowing. Most pleasures are here at your fingertips, at one click’s length. Users get hooked by getting instant reactions and ignore the actions that can bring benefits in the future. Surely, sometimes these actions take more input, while the results can be seen just after a long period of time.

Disorder of the personal goals structure — a state when a user does not outline sharply their personal wants and aspirations.

The Internet opens up a wide choice, but the network will never shed light on what information you do need. It entirely depends on the user’s purposes — which article to read, what person to make net-friends with, or which course to take.

If the targets are not clearly articulated, not understood, implicit, then the only criterion for the user sounds like “interesting — not interesting”. However, this criterion is not enough — everything is interesting in the Net. User falls into the trap of endless consumption, an eternal trial of everything. And eventually a user can never make the final choice — where to go, who to be, what to do. With all this going on, time goes by and user finds himself left with the feeling of the infinite potencies.

Another criterion is taking pleasure in the Net. In this case, users consume the content of doubtful quality or float on the surface of topics of their interest.


Tinder — increasingly popular application for mobile platforms Android and Apple iOS, is designed for the selection of candidates to communicate in accordance with the specified parameters. In April 2014 an application used daily to 10 million people. A significant increase in the popularity of applications resulted in the use of its athletes and residents of the Olympic Village during the Olympic Winter Games 2014 in Sochi.


New selection criteria

To break the vicious circle, it is important to add the criterion of “important — not important”, and it needs, first of all, to understand why and where the user rushes. When a person knows milestones on the way, knows where to go, it is difficult to shoot down a third-party semantic flow. In the future scenario-based services may be able to build a way of users’ life and to collect the information according to their aims. Still, even in this case they will need to set these purposes. In other words, unless you make a choice, a choice will be made for you. For the time being, the services owners suggest information to us, but in the future they may advise life patterns suitable for them.


One of the effective exercises that can help to fix your inner life is a role definition exercise. The aim is to portray the roles that you play in your life. There you’ll find the virtual one too. Describe for each role the purposes relevant to you, what hinders you from achieving them, and what you’d like to change. The roles description can be combined with the digital detox, when information noise is not confusing.

Person textualization — is a feature characterized by seeing people in a textual, symbolic, emblematic form. Possession of this feature deadens the ability to feel empathy.

Because of the long time spent in the symbolic world of the Internet, a person begins to perceive the people made of flesh and blood, who can feel, experience, suffer from loneliness, and make up their minds guided by the feelings and human nature, as some heroes of the novel, which is being written in his imagination. On the Internet, everything has turned into a digit, even the people.

Text is a world of imagination. This characteristic of perception makes people assume, guess, painting out the white spots in the image of a living person. The imagination can fit the people to the roles frames. While people have weakness, they require care and understanding. If one always keeps in mind that people are not a text, this brings them round to the reality and return them the sense of nonverbal communication. This feature is illustrated by the philosopher Ksenia Kabanova (the text was initially written for other purposes, but it is very suitable to explain the ideas of media asceticism:

Ксения Кабанова “It is very easy to reject the text, as it is always possible to find something ‘not quite that’, incorrect or unreasonable. To reject the voice is much harder. To do this you need to perceive it as text. To reject the body is ever so difficult — even repulsive, it wins compassion with its heartbeat, its breath, its short life. Today many people have lost their sense of corporality of the others. They look at a person as at a text, and often — as at a more or less ridiculous one. It is clear that they do not possess compassion and the ensuing concern for another person.” Ksenia Kabanova, philosopher


On the Internet it is necessary to stick to the notion that human is not a text.

Our most precious, irreplaceable resource is our time. For me personally, books are one of the wisest ways we can invest that time. A book is the direct transfer, mind to mind, of the thoughts of another human being. Today, we are assailed by a thousand distractions every hour, as various sources of information compete for our attention. Those of us who grew up in the pre-Internet era know the slow time experience of immersion in a powerful or moving book. And when we switch our attention to Facebook, or Reddit, or any of a million and one other potential distractions, we are losing our time to an insidious digital addiction.

The shallow accretions of Internet data doses are finely tuned to captivate our attention, titillating our minds with illusory promises of satisfaction which can never be fulfilled except by more of the same, in an endless cycle of meme, news flash and tawdry ‘human interest’ stories, optimized with click-bait headlines. What we gain in content, we lose in meaning.

We are also losing our privacy, our innocence and most importantly, we are losing the ability to think deeply about important subjects. As long as we embrace too-easy gratification, we will continue to remain in thrall to the digital domination of instant information. I am concerned that human beings are subjecting themselves to a new way to trigger neuro-chemical changes in our brains, that may ultimately lead to a decline in the quality of our human relationships.

I therefore advocate and support the message of entering slow time. Take a hike in nature. Disconnect from the constant digital flood. Interact with your friends. Share a meal together. Switch off from every external distraction, and embrace the flow of life beyond the digital fix. Your future may depend upon it.

Paul Gillingwater
Journalist & Filmmaker. Managing Editor at The Local Austria