On dopamine high, skiing with Khaleesi

Over the school holidays, now drawing to an exhausted close, I have given up Facebook and taken up skiing.

The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive you understand.

In fact, they can fit quite well together.

If you're going to spend inordinate amounts of time, money and planetary resources sliding around on the snow, you might as well get your full mileage from it by posing, smiling, clicking, posting.

White slopes, bluebird skies.

But I'm not going to be Facebragging about my ski exploits.

Firstly, my abilities give me little to skite about. Secondly, I'm pointedly eschewing all LikeyLikey white-and-blue-edged webchatting for a fortnight.

It started when my son posted questions to my Facebook friends for a social media project he's concocting.

The kind and thoughtful responses from my far-flung Facemates got me thinking; thinking how grateful I am to have such friends (some of whom I have never met).

How good a vehicle Stalkbook is for sharing and gathering news and gossip.

And how most people I know claim to spend rather less time Facebooking than me.

In my defence, I mostly use Facebook for work.

Messaging students about volunteering opportunities, posting updates to closed groups and a community page.

I tend to have it App-ing in the background pretty much all day.

I don't quite fit the dopamine-driven Like-my-best-life rat-race profile, although studies on people and rats have found that co-operation and altruism, as well as self-disclosure, activate our dopamine reward systems when we're using social media.

More congruency: as well as having dopamine in common, Facebook and snow sports both promote a preoccupation with appearances.

Snailing through school holiday queues, you have ample time to muse on the fashion/function choices made by fellow enthusiasts.

Longline, pastel-stippled jackets draped over straight trou.

Deep, fur-lined fitted blousons skimming down to black OTB pants.

Goggles, helmets, stringed-up gloves.

Without the distraction of checking Facebook while I'm waiting for a chair, my mind starts wandering.

Look at the weirdness of us all, penned in like cattle, or rats, perhaps, anticipating our release on swinging metal seats, strung to a chain.

Imagine how we'd look to a being from another place.

Daenerys Targaryen, for example, alighting from her hopefully-not-very-fire-breathing dragon: ''Citizens of Slipland, cast off these oppressive shackling sticks from your feet. Loose your uncomfortable-looking boot-bonds and join me.''

Some might suspect the Mother of Dragons of pulling a fast one in order to snake a bit further forward in line.

The liftie with his pointing pole would ask, ''How many of you?''

People around her would hold up gloved fingers (mittens don't help with this bit) or yell out the number in their group and so the pole would point and the line move forward as Daenerys, with hot boots, epically perfect hair and an Amazonian split-front maxi dress, stands perfectly still, legs slightly splayed.

The liftie points: ''How many?'' Her reply: ''I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and ...''

''All right, you, and you two and you two over there and a single from the other side.''

And so Daenerys Stormborn would ride the six with a posse of powderhounds, maintaining her proud-backed posture, secretly marvelling at the sweet little dopamine trails created by whooping friends of said hounds on the snow below, as the chair ascends.

Anyone can look the part for the getting-up bit. Out on the snow, of course, it's a different matter.

Making it back to base in one piece with a modicum of grace is going to be a lifelong learning experience for me, born without the elegance of a Targaryen and lacking the gung-ho of kids a quarter my age skiffling down the slopes.

Still, dopamine doesn't discriminate as to actual ability: I'm proof that you can be stuck in that risk/reward cycle with very little natural talent.

Perhaps that's why I'm not missing my online social hit.

At the end of the ski day I'm still mentally making turns.

Reminding myself that you don't have to circle back the other way when you take a bend in the road.

Staring at faces in the hills. When I wake up and go straight online, it's only for the snow report.

But this too shall pass.

I can see that I'm going to have to take a ton of selfies (not involving guns or cliff edges, I'm not that kind of dopamine durr-brain) in anticipation of the end of the holidays and post them to Facebook, prolonging the happiness, back at my desk in the land of the much-less-exciting blue and white.

Liz Breslin 

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