Playing with D.O.P.A.M.I.N.E. (Desiring Other People’s Approval May Increase Naysayers’ Enmity)

** This post is dedicated to every online exhibitionist that I’ve ever secretly made fun of. Yeah, it was a secret, but you still know who you are.**

D.O.P.A.M.I.N.E. is a powerful substance. Play around with it at your own risk.

The first part is the D.O.P.A. — Desiring Other People’s Approval.   When you were young, you thought you needed it.  When you performed well in front of others, you got a hit of the D.O.P.A., and that made you want to perform more, perform better.

The second part is the M.I.N.E.May Increase Naysayers’ Enmity.    As you got older, someone inevitably came along and started treating you badly because they thought you were a junkie. They looked at you with disdain and called you weak.  They taught you the cruel lesson about how unattractive it is was when you appeared to be trying too hard.  (Some of them are really good at what they do… they can catch even the faintest whiff of effort.)  They could have done it nicely, but didn’t. These naysayers — nah, let’s call ’em what they were: haters — made you recoil. The experience made you want to quit the D.O.P.A. and stop performing. Or perhaps it caused you to twist yourself into a pretzel, acting as if you didn’t care about what anyone had to say.

The third part is… well, we’ll get to the third part in a moment.  Before we do that:

What’s Your Online Approval Rating?

Remember the first time you posted something on Facebook or Google (etc.) and received a whole bunch of likes / +1’s from friends?  How did that feel?  How did it feel the second time?  How about two years into it?  What about seeing other people’s stuff getting liked?  Was it like cheering in a small private stadium of like-minded fans?  Was it like hearing a laugh track on a sitcom?

Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, found that the more parents collaborate with toddlers seeking attention, the more likely it is that the child will develop positively in the future and be an eager learner.

We don’t always prefer it — in fact, sometimes we think it’s downright harmful — but we know that deep down inside there’s a part of us that responds to approval.  It starts with our first act of smiling, continues through our first laugh, our first words, our first crawl… walking… dancing… singing that whole song nearly flawlessly to the supreme delight of the parents and onlooking relatives… it’s there, deeply embedded in our subconscious.

Then comes along social media and WHAMMO– suddenly we’re bathed in nonstop stroking.

People Who Put (Themselves) Out

It used to be that only certain people had the opportunity to perform publicly.  There were professional producers — writers of books, television and other media — and the rest of us were supposed to be good docile consumers.  Warhol presciently predicted that we’d each get our of 15 minutes of fame, but even he was constrained to the vision of the mass media, the world as a single rapt audience.  It turns out that the future is more like 15 seconds of fame, many times over and over again for each of us, but each time it’s for a very thin slice of the world.

“It is now common, and will soon be expected, that every intelligent person (and quite a few unintelligent ones) will have a media platform where they share what they care about with the world.”

– Seth Godin

There are still people who refuse to go online at all…  and an even larger number of people who do go online but stay on the sidelines, acting as quiet voyeurs of the nonstop exhibitionism… and that’s just fine for everyone but the most diehard online personal branding guru 2.0 types.

But then there are the haters who are a subclass of those voyeurs — they don’t really contribute anything, but they do enjoy consuming the social content while smugly snickering to themselves,  Ha! Look at all those attention junkies who desperately need approval! 

Of course, haterism is a maladjusted way of seeking security, a sad adaptation for dealing with the fear of being judged. If a person sits on the couch and criticizes everybody else, nobody has to know how competent or incompetent they themselves are.  Within every Statler and Waldorf there lurks a Beavis and Butthead.

If you spend enough time with a hater, you can easily get infected by their attitude… I know this from personal experience.  These are the people who eschew all forms of peer pressure, including positive peer pressure. These are likely to be the same people who don’t work well in groups and prefer to tackle projects alone. I’m happy to be out of that, now.

Apply a thin coating of social glue, press firmly, then release…

D.O.P.A. is the glue that keeps collaboration together.  Approval — and the desire for it — is an important social cue, if you’re going to exist in any kind of community relationship. Denying the importance of approval is akin to denying the importance of communicating.

Also, even if you successfully adopt the haterist view, then in a sense all you’re doing is seeking the hater’s approval… which, by the way, you can never, ever, get.  That’s right.  If they had it their way, you and every other “approval junkie” will sit down and shut up… and yes, the world would be a poorer, less interesting place.

Which brings us back to the third point:  Be aware of both sides of the D.O.P.A.M.I.N.E. equation — you’ll get what you get, and you don’t get upset.  Enjoy the love and ignore the hate. In fact, you may get some pleasure ignoring a hater, denying them the attention that they secretly want by doing what they’re asking you to do, vis-a-vis their disdain.

It’s true, you don’t need anyone’s approval… and it’s also okay to enjoy it, to use it as encouragement to keep improving, especially if it’s coming from people who you respect and admire… or who you love.

So keep contributing.  #DontGiveUp


About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on April 11, 2012, in Collaboration, Learning, Life, Positivity, Social Media and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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