Dopamine Rat Race: Consequence & Resistance

Nothing to do with dopamine or Rat Race. I just like the view.

Disclaimer: This article is not written against social media, but to highlight the effect if it’s being used excessively. Everything, if being used in moderation, is great. That includes social media that we have nowadays, which is a blessing especially during MCO.

Tabi basa and greetings everybody! How was your week? I hope all is well with you. For the past two months, I have been doing online competitions , back to back, starting with Pertandingan Personaliti Popular Mparing Sawa / Ngiling Bidai (Gawai Closing Popular Personality Competition), followed by Pertandingan Personaliti Popular Orang Ulu (Orang Ulu’s Popular Personality Competition).

Recently I went through the comments that I have received on my blogs. There were two popular posts, first one is Be Fearless and the second one is The Price of Freedom. Back in the day when I wrote it, I was having mild fever and had a runny nose. I wish that I can have be free from those diseases, which caused a minor discomfort for me. Now, all of us are suffering from COVID-19 that is plaguing the whole world, causing us to be confined to our own residence and some even stay at quarantine.

Amidst the silence of these quarantines, I decided to write something based on my observations of our current trends and life that revolves around social media because being confined at home, what is the best thing that we can do, right?

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Based on current trends, since the beginning of Movement Control Order in 18 March 2020, we are getting used to various types of MCO such that we are no longer bothered by the latest announcements. All we know is that this “war” is not going to end anytime soon. It could go on until 2023, if we play our cards incorrectly because these viruses can mutate into an even stronger strain. Now we have Delta variant, which is much deadlier and stronger than the previous versions.

Because of that, subconsciously we are thinking, how do we survive our lives indoor? Easy fix for that is by spending our time in front of the screen. I was blessed to be able to live my life without any smart devices, where that time, everything is mostly analogue with some digital support. Back then, when I want to withdraw my scholarship money during Secondary School at SMK Tebakang, I have to request for my BSN account book from our school counselor who was assigned the task of safe-keeping scholar’s bank book for SMK Tebakang. Not sure about other school though, but that how we do it at SMKT. Usually I will request for RM100, and that amount is huge back then.

I vividly remember when I was still in Primary Four a couple of decades ago, most of my classmates have remarkable dreams; some wants to be a teacher, some police, some elite soldiers. If you ask those of the same age now, they would tell you a different story. They want to be a Youtuber, an Instafamous person, a Tik-Tok star or an influencer. It is quite obvious that different generation has a different views. But I still believe that we should be equipped for the future. What are the things that we are doing today that will benefit us in many years to come? That very topic deserved its own dedicated article.


Believe it or not, most of us are dealing with smart devices, in one way or another. Have you ever wonder, what was the first thing that most of us do when we wake up? For many of us, the first thing that we do when we wake up is to touch our phone to turn off its alarm. While we’re holding our phone, out of habit, we often look at our newsfeed, be it at Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok. The seemingly brief job actually costs us almost an hour to get off. By the time we realized it, it’s too late. We’re late for whatever things that we do, though some who is very well-disciplined can break off easily. But how many of us are like that? Not many, I can say. Most are chained and confined to their modern day prison, the prison of their mind, the one that you cannot touch, smell or see. That’s the most dangerous of all.

This habit also caught the attention of medical world, where the compulsive checking of smartphone is a sign of habit, a dependence to the smartphone. Metaphorically, we are akin to riding a treadmill. For first time users of smartphone, the joy and the feel that they felt when they used it, creating first Facebook account, TikTok and Instagram is unmeasurable. The joy of getting your firsts are thrilling, but that is until you compared yourself to others. Suddenly, your happiness from getting few hundred / followers are eclipsed when you compared yourself to others who has more than a thousand followers. That drives many to do follow-for-follow movements, or Like-for-Like movements. That happiness and excitement that you acquire from achieving your social-media goal is called “Dopamine Rush”. Not only confined to social media, but also in everyday life. For example, you won a million ringgit jackpot, or your found out that your crush likes you back. Well, that’s an easy example. But for the sake of this article, I will only confine it to social media-derived dopamine pleasure and its withdrawal.

Every single time we post our picture, when people likes our picture, we will feel that excitement – that’s dopamine in action where it is being released in our brain. You can call it our reward and it makes us feel good. What’s not good is when you look at someone else’s higher likes and our of a sudden, your brain will release cortisol, or stress hormone. In some cases, it will be released with adrenaline to prepare our body for some possible physical action, such as a brawl, though it is not really a common occurrence nowadays.

Then came Tik Tok. Somehow, we do crave for dopamine rush, whether you like it or not. Most of Gen Y and Gen Z are the main consumer of TikTok, with some Gen X adapting to its trend in order to boost their business or to reach out to Gen Y & Z.

For those who didn’t know, these are the definition of the generations:

  • Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964.
  • Gen X: Born between 1965 and 1980.
  • Gen Y: Dubbed “Millennials”, born between 1981 and 1996.
  • Gen Z: newest generation, born between 1997 and 2012.
  • Gen A: Generation Alpha was born in 2012 and will continue until 2025.

You might wonder, why is this important? The generation before a generation will always say that the newer generation is lazier, but they forgot that we are adapting. It’s like you’re still riding a horse when everyone else are driving their own cars across the street. Baby Boomers generation has their own different ideals, where they admire someone who works in the government office, works in a traditional job, holding ranks as well as doctor profession. Meanwhile, the latest gens wants to be otherwise. With the rise of e-Sport, famous peoples gamers like Faker, Rekkles, Perkz from League of Legends communities, and not to forget YouTubers such as PewDiePie and MrBeast, of course these gen shifts their attention to the current trend. As for TikTok, many would know Khaby Lame, a Senegalese-born Tik-Toker based in Italy that sarcastically points out people who overcomplicate simple tasks for no particular reason. He has the record for being the most followed Italian on both TikTok and Instagram.

Khaby Lame. Just looking at him reminds me to all of his funny videos.

Look at all these peoples, their lifestyle seems to be easy and they are living their dream, isn’t it? Wake up, do Tik Tok, and money comes in? Is that why a lot of people are trying their luck to be Tik Tok famous? That’s where the rabbit hole started.

There was a time when me and my buddies (3D) dreamt of becoming famous like Muse, and acquire that blue tick at our own Facebook page.


While it looks attractive in the beginning, as you look closer to these trend, it actually has its own dark side that not many soul wants to talk about. When I first started my photography journey, I created my own Facebook page. I started as an unknown and nobody knows about my photography journey. My style is to post a picture and write about it. I don’t do jokes because it doesn’t suit my style as I prefer more solemn mood in my postings. Though I only have around less than 128 followings in my first year, I didn’t give up, but continue to work on my passion and photography skill until it’s being acknowledged. My Instagram is even worst. I have very little postings too but that’s because I am not good at photography yet. So I attended trainings after trainings to improve myself and to open up my mind and perspective.

If money is no object, I will buy all of these. Four years ago, this setup is the best. Now, new breeds are here.

Now, as my skill improves, as my work is being acknowledged, I am getting more followings. But does my following defines who I am as a photographer, and especially as a person? No. It doesn’t change who I am. Our social media trend may change overnight and our efforts to acquire followings might go down the drain and we have to start all over again.

Did you notice that more and more people starts to tie their own approval and self-worth to how much attention they get from other peoples via social media? I am new to Tik Tok, but I already noticed a trend where is a lot of peoples requests for follow-for-follow trend. I was told, it is not new, but it is one way for them to improve their followings. My Tik Tok followers is only 165, but I doesn’t make me anything less than I am. Tik Tok is just the current trend. Previously it was Vine. That’s why, people called it Vine 2.0.

My current Facebook page. It’s not easy to reach this stage. It’s all thanks to the followers who has been supporting me since 2017. Tiga tawai! Sayu kenep! Jiak cengah! Terima kasih mayuh-mayuh/ahi-ahi ndug bala kende!

But the fact that many starts to tie their own approval and self-worth to attention given by others via soc-med is just sad. Just imagine how many hours wasted just to create that “perfect” 15 seconds clip and yet others just scroll it down at “For You” section. That’s disheartening. That’s why I just do what I love most. I write as long as I can in my blog because in soc-med, there are limitations in how many words you can type. In my own blog, it is limitless.

Talking about these attention-craving creatures, Will Smith said it best.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like”.

Will Smith

Those that’s not really mentally-strong might follow the trend. That’s why, even he/she is good with something, getting acknowledged by their peers, friends and family, but deep inside, they knew that something is not right. That’s what I call, pleasing others, not pleasing yourself. What is the point of life then?

I can even quote this about a guy who is learning to cook, instead of learning how to properly make-up just because he is was being raised in a family of excellent cooks. What if he wants to learn how to cool properly? It is wrong for him to do so?

It is easy for us to label someone than to help them to become a better person. Generally if we saw someone with low followings, our perception varies from not famous, not popular to weirdo. But it is better to be called names than to lose who you really are..


Like it or not, these are the world that we live in, where we can’t escape from social media and those viral items. What we can do is to spread the message of good news using it. Some also spread the Gospel/Bible or quotes from Al Quran to their fellow believers. When we wake up, try not to immerse yourself further other than to stop the alarm clock. The best thing is to hit the cold shower to properly wake up and start your day as early as you can. Stop scrolling down to seek happiness at Tik Tok or Instagram Reels because what you seek is not there. What you seek is inside you.

Unhappiness is actually the product of our thought. Some worry about yesterday, some worry about future. To be happy, we need to let go of what’s already gone, focus on what we have at hand and prepare for what’s we have.

May be an image of 1 person and smiling
Focus on the NOW.

The genuinely happy person only focuses on the “NOW”. They cherish the friendship that they have, the peoples who supports them and enjoy the nice things that they have. Most of the time, we already have what we need, but not what we want. What we want is not necessarily be good for us, because our Creator has something better in store for us.


Dopamine rush is a real thing and many of us are subject to it. Ignorance is bliss, after all. But once you are aware that you can’t derive any particular form of happiness from those red pop-ups from your soc-med notifications, you will start to realise that it is much more important to be happy with the present moment, with those who really loves you. Our parents are getting older, our ex-teachers are leaving one by one. Life is short, so cherish it.

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Once Upon A Time at Miri.

Tukang Rantek,

Note: “Tukang Rantek” means photographer in Bidayuh language.

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