The Limitless Effect
NGL writes about his personal social media paradox and the trappings of taking just one more dopamine hit
Whenever I log onto YouTube (which is more than I’d like to admit), there’s a near 95% chance I get a recommendation for clips from some random movie with a cult following.
Unsurprisingly, some of those YouTube channels that thrive off of waning attention spans to reach people where they’re at — if I have three-to-five minutes of spare time on a random Tuesday afternoon, of course I’ll watch that chase scene from Casino Royale that I’ve already seen a million times! — have millions of subscribers. It’s a pretty tried-and-true formula: for a decade-old movie, it allows the studio to make their property relevant again; for the channel, they get a chance to capitalize off of that good good AdSense revenue.
It’s like the Ultimate Cable movies they always seem to talk about on shows like The Rewatchables. Some movies and scenes will forever be entwined with their status as the type of movie where if you’re flipping channels during a timeout or commercial break and you see it pop up, you have to drop everything and keep your eyes glued to the screen.
I would argue that MovieClips accounts have actually replaced this phenomenon and, in doing so, have ushered in a new era of That Movie nostalgia. And there may not be a better nominee for That Movie status than the 2011 Bradley Cooper-helmed flick, Limitless.
Around the time it came out, the movie was mostly greeted with an audible “meh” by critics. At best, it was a fun, visually-stimulating concept that more so served as a vehicle to confirm what we all knew and cement Bradley Cooper’s rise to A-lister stardom post-Hangover. At worst, it was an uneven script and tonally-challenged flick that might’ve pulled a Wolf of Wall Street in glorifying a particular lifestyle a little too much while trying to provide commentary on the pitfalls of said lifestyle.
Nevertheless, I found myself hooked the other day re-watching clips from the film. The central concept — If we supposedly only use 20% of our brain’s capacity, what would happen if we were able to unlock the other 80%? — convinced me to do something I’ve been wanting to try again for a while: a social media cleanse.
No, I don’t believe that turning off all the notifications and deleting all the apps will allow me to “unlock” parts of my brain that I haven’t used before. But during a very difficult winter for me — mentally, physically, spiritually, everything-y — I attempted to track my behaviors more, and the days I felt worse were the ones where something seemed to overwhelm me and to cope, I kept looking for that dopamine rush forever associated with a colorful notification.
The problem is, when you keep going back for that brief hit, the side effects are inevitable: headaches, tiredness, depression. And for me, I end up in my bed under my blanket, trying to just get away from everything.
So instead of taking the Limitless pill, instead of leaning in for the dopamine hit of social media, I’m doing the opposite by abstaining and hoping that some of the gunk floating around my brain is put to better use. The goal — for the next 30 days, at least — is to channel the same energy and time I instinctively dedicate to flipping over to Twitter and instead into what’s actually good for me in writing. I’ve always told myself that the only thing holding me back from using social media is its necessity in the modern-day professional world, yet if it’s actively stalling me from contributing to that world, I see it as nothing more than a destructive paradox to be trapped in on the daily.
There’s so much I want to build and learn, and it always feels like things change so much in the day-to-day that I’m unable to accomplish my ultimate goals. Yet if I’m able to complete this at bare minimum, I know I’ll look back on this period of time in my life as time well spent.
It helps that Alt Investor Icon Chamath Palihapitiya seems to agree with me on this premise:
Yes, Chamath made his money from being an early employee at Facebook and is using a social media platform in Twitter to broadcast this particular message. No, that doesn’t mean he’s not allowed to criticize his former employer and their competition.
In all, we’ll see where this takes me. I graduated from college a quarter early in an attempt to figure out what to do next with my life. I’m spending this time freelancing a bit while applying to some jobs and sending hella cold emails. I also have plans to revamp the Unplugg’d website to reflect where I’m going with it next, as well as an idea to create a limited-edition magazine and maybe tighten up my HTML skills. All while going back to physical therapy, shelling out $30 for access to a co-working space, and enjoying the nice weather with friends.
It’s fitting that I started on my journey with Unplugg’d at the end of high school, when everyone was out at the beach and I was hacking away at my laptop trying to become the next Bill Simmons. After a really fucking difficult year to be finishing up college — a time of universal dread for many in any given year — I’m finally feeling excited and happy about the future, and go figure it’s all concluding in a similar way to how it began.
Oh, I’ll be back in a sec — I gotta go rewatch the scene where Robert DeNiro shows up in Limitless. There’s a Netflix show now, too?!?!
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