Has your mind been hacked?

Brain Hacked

It is probably not news to you that companies like Facebook, Coca-Cola and Google want you to spend time and money on their products. The more time and money you spend using these products, the more money they make, the happier their shareholders and the closer to our final extinction event we get (sorry, got a bit apocalyptic there for a second).

I’m enough of an old fart to remember a time when social media did not exist. I was just as happy then as I am now, without the constant checking to see if that photo of a plant I just posted got liked by anyone. There is no doubt in my mind that my brain has been hacked to view social media as a critical component of life, when logically I know it to be actually irrelevant.

If you are feeling a bit brave today, you might want to listen to this podcast interview with Dr Robert Lustig. If that name sounds familiar it is because a youtube video of him talking about how sugar will f*#% you up went viral in 2009.

In the podcast it is clear that Lustig has set his sights on a much broader range of targets than just sugar. In fact, he is now after any corporation he thinks has hacked our minds to provide pleasure (short-term and addictive) but sell it as happiness (long-term and not addictive). I’ll be surprised if the podcast doesn’t get you questioning things that have become a core part of your life: your food, your phone, social media.

Lustig’s main targets? – tech companies and the food industry – corporations he thinks are making us “sicker and stupider, fatter and broke”.

There is a lot of cool stuff in this podcast:

  • the differences between dopamine (pleasure) and serotonin (happiness) neurotransmitters and how we’ve conflated pleasure and happiness
  • the different ways our minds get hacked, from variable reinforcement schedules to build habits, dopamine rushes through ‘hedonic substances’ like sugar and caffeine, disinformation (e.g. about nutritional content of foods), shifting the blame for obesity from food source to the individual, government inaction because of lobbying and tariff profits, poor doctor education and more
  • how to raise your serotonin levels using the four ‘C’s’ – connect, contribute, cope and cook.
  • how anti-depressants help restore serotonin levels, but don’t make you happier
  • and more

If you find the content of this podcast interesting, you can explore further Dr Lustig’s ideas in his most recent book – The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains.

Might I also suggest, if you are looking to translate this podcast into a discernible life upgrade, that you consider a digital detox (although I hate the word detox because it is associated with a bunch of shitty fad diets). Why am I suggesting this? – so you can test empirically the relationship between your mobile phone and social media use and your happiness levels.

Want to comment on this article, or ask me a question about the health and well-being services available to you as a student? Feel free to comment below, abuse me on Twitter (@Dr_Furber), contact me on Skype (search for ‘eMental Health Project Officer Gareth’), or email me (gareth.furber@flinders.edu.au)


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