Wes and I have been discussing game theory a lot lately, specifically as it applies to online communities like Reddit. Basically put, scientists have noticed that when a person submits an article to something like Reddit, their dopamine levels spike similar to when someone gambles because it’s the same sort of output-with-hope-of-reward type action.
What’s funny is, the number of times the action results in no reward at all doesn’t seem to matter. It’s that dangling carrot that keeps people submitting posts and yanking on slots handles and doubling down at the race track. All they have to do is either experience success once (even if it’s small success) or watch someone else succeed and BAM. Goners.
When Wes and I discussed this in regards to Reddit submission behavior, I was inclined to scoff because I’m inclined to dislike Reddit on general principles. When my book first came out, there were some Reddit community members who were mean to me and now I’m soured on the whole thing, much to my husband’s frustration.
So yeah, I looked down my nose at the people who submit stuff to Reddit all day just hoping for a big upvote payday. I thought of them in my head as helpless lab rats chasing a dopamine spike, comforting myself with my own supposed superiority.
Until I thought about what I was doing at ten o’clock last night. I thought back to how I reorganized our closet, sorting, folding, and putting everything in perfect order. And then I thought about afterward, when everything was in place, how I stood there admiring my handiwork, reveling in the dopamine high that comes from taking satisfaction in your work.
That was when I realized it: Despite all my rage (against the people who were mean to me on Reddit), I’m still just a rat in a cage.
And I laughed. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, because it’s just so dang funny when a false sense of superiority comes back to bite you on the tuchus, isn’t it?