Computer technologies can be addictive because they’re “psychoactive”; they alter mood and often trigger enjoyable feelings. Email, in particular, gives us satisfaction due to what psychologists call “variable ratio reinforcement.” That is, we never know when we’ll get a satisfying email, so we keep checking, over and over again. “It’s like slot machines,” Greenfield says. “We’re seeking that pleasurable hit.
This one hit home for me. I have been noticing that I am checking email and texts all the time. So I have taken the advice at the end of this article and turned off my alerts. The idea of variable ratio reinforcement is very true. It seems worth going through all those email for Viagra just to get to an email from a friend. Not any more!