Our fight for survival is ongoing and unrelenting

If you are reading these words I probably have less than a second to grab your attention. That’s because words on printed paper simply cannot compete with the digital dopamine stimulation offered by your smartphone. Compared with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, email, and texting I have little chance of keeping you interested.

The reason is simple. Reading Adventure Sports Journal, an old school outdoor magazine on printed paper, is not addictive in the way smartphones are. Reading this magazine is an act of defiance. You come here for the substance, not the dopamine. You come here to learn about Cody Townsend, questing to descend the fifty classic ski lines, or Dierdre Wolownick still climbing El Capitan at age 70.  You come here to learn about Booomers Bikes, hand made of bamboo in Africa. You come here to learn about Clint Claassen, climbing one million feet on a mountain bike in one year. You come to ASJ because this is the only place in the world where you can read the combined works of hardcore outdoor journalists like Leonie Sherman, Kurt Gensheimer, Chris Van Leuven, Matt Johanson, Krista Hammond, and Dierdre Wolownick. Our journalists don’t just tell the story, sometimes they ARE the story. 

Still it’s hard to compete directly with your smartphone. We don’t offer a surge of dopamine to reward you like your phone does. We are not addictive like your phone. Instead we simply point the way towards your best self. A self forged by nature, not addiction. 

Why resist the smartphone paradigm and insist on printing old fashioned magazines that don’t reward people with a surge of dopamine? Why work for hundreds of hours every issue trying to compete with smartphones? We ask ourselves the same question every deadline. “What the fuck are we doing?” 

It’s like David vs. Goliath but in this case your phone is Goliath and he destroys us every single time. Sometimes when we ask outdoor companies to help us with advertising support, they question whether we have any relevance or value at all. “Does anyone read printed magazines any more? Isn’t it better for the environment to go 100% digital?”

After twenty years of working our asses off I have to admit it hurts. We have thousands of loyal readers, but somehow that’s not good enough. We are expected to compete directly against Facebook and Instagram or else put our tail between our legs and let the smartphone industry win. When outdoor companies refuse to support us we can read between the lines of their semi-polite rejection emails. “Sorry. No one ever said business was fair.”

Which brings me back to dopamine. Because of addictive smartphones most of us are getting way too much dopamine and that’s a problem. By flooding our brains with dopamine our tolerance to dopamine has gone way up. Like drug addicts seeking their next high, we are not fully present for the people, places, and challenges of real life. Now we need more and more dopamine just to feel normal. Walking in nature, drinking tea with family, writing in a journal — all these activities seem boring because the amount of dopamine they produce doesn’t even move the needle anymore. Everything feels boring, just like Adventure Sports Journal. Forget life. All we want is our phones. 

I’m saying we are at a crisis point but you don’t have to take my word for it. Read Dopamine Nation by Dr. Anna Lembke. Or go to YouTube and watch Better Than Yesterday: Dopamine Detox. The experts agree that smartphones are turning us into childish addicts, incapable of handling life without getting high first. 

The experts are saying that in order to bring our dopamine tolerance back to healthy levels (AKA “homeostasis”) we must do a digital detox at least one day per week. These days should be spent exercising outdoors, reading old fashioned printed books, doing yard work and cleaning our houses. Most importantly these detox days need to be spent away from phones and laptops.

If you are still reading these words without being totally bored, congratulations. You are not a digital zombie. If it’s not too much to ask I need a favor. Please help keep us in print by supporting the outdoor companies that advertise in the pages of ASJ. Find an ad you like and choose to support that company. Buy their products or better yet send them an email straight to the CEO. Thank them for supporting Adventure Sports Journal, a family-owned printed outdoor magazine.  

Another way to help us is to become a member. Go to adventuresportsjournal.com/membership and choose whatever level of support you can afford. Without people like you all hope is lost. So thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It costs more than $20,000 to publish each issue of ASJ. Without community support we will be forced to go out of business. Before that happens we will fight tooth and nail until blood and sweat drips from our bodies. This is our life’s work and we won’t give up easily. 

The digital age is coming to an end because people are realizing it’s just not sustainable to spend hours every day on a little screen we carry in our pockets. Dopamine addiction makes you weak. Be strong. Stand up straight and look to the horizon. Resist your phone. Make eye contact. Test yourself in the great outdoors. Read ASJ and help us live another day. With your help we can have a breakthrough. With your help we can get the support we need to thrive.

— Matt Niswonger


Read past Editor’s Notes here.