Does Donald Trump Tweet for a Dopamine Kick?

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
A tweet from Donald Trump. (Photo: @realdonaldtrump/Instagram)

President Donald Trump’s tweeting is so prolific he’s been dubbed a “modern social media master.” And on Friday, POTUS once again turned to his favorite platform to express some of his feelings.

Trump began a series of 140 character statements with, “After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my “collusion with the Russians,” nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad!”

The tweets continued with, “The Fake News Media hates when I use what has turned out to be my very powerful Social Media – over 100 million people! I can go around them.” Then he wrote, “Despite the phone Witch Hunt going on in America, the economic & jobs numbers are great. Regulation way down, jobs and enthusiasm way up!” Finally, he concluded with, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”

This last tweet garnered over 97,000 “likes.”

On Thursday, Trump also tweeted throughout the day about what he calls a “witch hunt” against him.

 

Given the current inquiries by the FBI against Trump and his associates, speaking out — and in writing — seems curious, at best. It’s also seemingly impulsive — and experts agree. 

“In general, people high in the trait of impulsivity do things that have reward in the short term, despite the possibility of long-term consequences,” Art Markman, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas-Austin and an expert on the psychology of decision making, explains to Yahoo Beauty about impulsivity can impact the choices a person makes.

“The current social media environment can be particularly hard on impulsive people,” Markman says. “It can be easy to tweet or make a comment on a post quickly without paying attention to long-term consequences. Once the tweet or comment is out there, it is available for all to see. Even if you take it down quickly, many people may still have seen it.”

(Covfefe, anyone?)

But compulsive tweeting and other Internet behaviors aren’t all viral memes and the breathless subject of a 24/7 news cycle. For some, compulsive behavior online is actually addiction. And practically everyone is hardwired to fall victim to it, says David Greenfield, PhD, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and the director for the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction.

Greenfield compares the Internet to gambling “and all these apps are little slot machines — they provide reinforcement for pleasurable experiences on an unpredictable basis.” And because you don’t know just what tweet or Instagram photo or Facebook post is going to unleash a flood of “likes,” this kind of engagement is, at its core, addictive.

“This is all neurobiologic,” Greenfield notes. “All this crap we do with all these devices has nothing to do with content, but with our brains being hijacked by dopamine and cortisol depending on what we do online.” He notes that often, the way someone engages online is anything but logical — and that’s because the brain is chasing these wholly unpredictable pleasure hits that in turn create compulsion.

 

Internet usage also leads many people to become more disinhibited. “There’s perceived anonymity — people feel anonymous or dissociative in this medium. They say and do things online that they would never ordinarily do — and it gets them into trouble,” says Greenfield. He adds that “there is a large degree of denial” among heavy Internet users, many of whom end up using the Internet in illicit or illegal ways such as going on the dark web, file-sharing, or even engaging with child pornography. 

 

Nonetheless, he classifies the Internet as a “psychoactive medium” because it “can alter mood and consciousness” and can cause users to “not experience reality in a predictable way, but in a distorted way.” 

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