THE NATURE OF NOISE TODAY
Rob Reiher Ph.D.
MORE AND MORE HAPPY NOISE
Noise. It’s everywhere…and it’s only getting louder.
From the constant chatter of the 24-hour news cycle to the non-stop pings and notifications of our digital devices, it seems like there is no escape from the noise.
But what if I told you that there is a different kind of noise that is even more damaging to our future well being, than the older form of auditory noise we are used to?
I’m talking about “Happy Noise.”
Happy Noise is the term I use to describe the silent and seductive forms of noise that consist of information overload, distraction, disruption, distortion, disinformation, and disengagement. It’s not the kind of loud sounds and auditory noise you’ve experienced in the past, but a completely different more deceptive kind of noise that slowly, and without your awareness, overwhelms you from the outside first, and then disrupts your inside sense of focus and well being by creating higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
If you’re like most people, you probably think that you can just ignore today’s Happy Noise and it will go away. But the truth is, the Happy Noise is accelerating and becoming more pervasive and destructive than you may realize. In fact, it’s slowly but surely taking over our lives.
WHY CALL IT HAPPY NOISE?
Happiness is a state of mind that is often elusive and hard to maintain. It can be seen as a paradoxical concept due to the way it is described in both the short term and long term. In the short term, happiness is often linked with things like pleasure, fun and instant gratification. But in the long term, happiness is more about fulfillment, meaning and purpose. This contrast can make it difficult to achieve lasting long term happiness because it’s easy to become caught up in chasing short-term pleasures that don’t lead to anything meaningful in the long run.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It’s often referred to as the “happy hormone” because it plays a critical role in how we experience pleasure. When dopamine levels are increased, we feel happy and motivated. Low levels of dopamine can lead to feelings of sadness and depression.
Different types of incoming information in our innovative technological streams of contemporary media, play a powerful role in stimulating the release of dopamine. Film, music, gaming, social media, and all forms of entertainment can induce the release of dopamine. Although dopamine is called the “happy hormone”, the full range of emotions that result from the initial increase in dopamine vary, and are not always “happy”, often creating a very different effect over time. On the positive side of the equation, studies have shown that exposure to happy music for example, can increase dopamine levels in the brain along with accompanying feelings of pleasure. Pretty much all of us, at one time or another, have experienced the “lift” in mood that occurs when we listen to our favorite kinds of music. The music we love, acts as a “trigger” to simulate the increase in dopamine and pleasure.
But Happy Noise is a complex process, and in its different forms (distraction, distortion, disruption, disinformation, disengagement and overload), it can kickoff positive emotions initially, that transition over time into more repetitive and addictive and negative forms of behavior. In this instance, the dopamine “trigger” requires increasing levels of reinforcement to maintain the feelings of positive pleasure.
Current research on Parkinson’s disease for example, refers to a dopamine dysregulation syndrome (DDS) that leads to complex stereotyped behaviors, and impulse control disorders (ICDs), such as pathological gambling, hyper-sexuality, compulsive shopping and compulsive eating.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR OUR FUTURE WELL BEING?
Although we would all like to experience higher levels of happiness and pleasure in our lives, there’s a catch. Short term happiness is very different from long term happiness. There are significant tradeoffs involved with dopamine and pleasure. It’s impossible to live constantly in a state of “pleasure”. It is possible however, to create and use the state of pleasure in ways that increase our potential for both short term and long term happiness.
Happy Noise is tricky. As we learn more about the tradeoffs we are making with the disregard and disregulation of dopamine, we may be able to become better informed about Happy Noise, and how in today’s contemporary world of media and technology, its becoming a silent and seductive catalyst to change people’s behavior, enhancing an experience of short term happiness, while simultaneously interfering with and even destroying the potential for long term happiness.
Learning to live above the noise is both an art and a science, offering the potential for greater short term happiness, long term happiness, wellbeing, purpose and power.