The brain is plastic. That is, it’s a moldable and changeable thing. The basic cells of the brain, neurons, are arranged in pathways (circuits) that when activated, light up and reward us with dopamine, a chemical that mediates pleasure. Finding that rare shiny is one way to activate the pathway.
Now, each time the pathway is lit up, our brains need slightly more dopamine to get the same amount of pleasure as before. So each time we’re rewarded, our brains become less sensitive (desensitized) to the dopamine. Although one solution to this diminishing return could be by obtaining a greater stimulus, like finding the rarest armor upgrade possible, these greater stimuli come at a price. It can be a literal price when the sought after item is behind a paywall.
On the other hand, the greater stimulus could be something like an intense gym session or a night out with friends. There is a twofold problem though: 1) these experiences aren’t as easy to access as a mobile game is and 2) these experiences aren’t as often available as a mobile game is. Sure, FOMO can exist for these situations, such as my fearing I’m missing out on muscle building by skipping a workout. But it’s easier to develop and give in to FOMO with games than say, the gym.
Easy access and constant availability. Those ingredients, plus dopamine, create the basis of gaming FOMO. It’s so easy to fear we’re missing out on rare items as soon as we close the game. And just by reopening it, we get a bit of dopaminergic relief. We get more dopamine the more we play, or at least the more we anticipate we’ll find something cool and rare.
The problem remains, however: FOMO wears me out and dopamine rewards do become less and less pleasurable. What can I do to regain my joy? Or maybe not lose it in the first place?