Today, Kari wrote about her own experiences with the camgirl disease -- a rare strain of the virus internet addiction.
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a great article on how "circuits are used by the human brain to assess social rewards as diverse as investment income and surprise home runs at the bottom of the ninth." (article)
When you never know exactly how many digital smiles you will get each hour -- and when you tell yourself "reasons" to go along with your body/brain's natural tendency to crave immediate surprises -- you will keep enjoying the little highs, each new smile. Your very act of checking for possible smiles will itself feel prospectively good. Your body wants to check for new e-mail yet again even though it's been only two minutes, and somehow that feels like a great idea!
"People keep coming back, as if addicted to the euphoria of experiencing unexpected rewards." (NYT) There's a reason they call it a hit counter.
Yes, this is largely why you sometimes feel you want to leave the Internet.
This theory (of Addiction To Pleasant Surprises) also helps explain why some heated discussions are so much more compelling than regular old pleasant conversations among friends. An argument between relative strangers is practically overflowing with in-the-moment emotionally meaningful surprises -- however miniscule those meanings are in the grand scheme of things.
There is a lot to be said for restraining yourself from debates, and I today had the pleasure of seeing some people say that perfectly.
(Ooooooh, look, I just got another lj comment!!)
*The kind of thing we always want to hear, but that may well be very unhealthy for us...