Addiction, what does this actually mean? If you look it up in a dictionary you get “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma”.
But anyone who has an addiction of whatever sort is a lot more. It is a way of life, overwhelming, and all-encompassing. It becomes the norm. We are all aware of what joe public thinks of as an addiction. The substance and alcohol-based ones
, but there is an even more destructive group out there that prey, especially on the young people of our society and others. The addictions that walk alongside our relationship with technology.
My teenager is always on his phone
Many parents will understand the frustration of teenagers who are apparently glued to their phone or tablet, who won’t give eye contact for more than a few seconds because there is a beep or vibration that takes their attention and must be dealt with that second or don’t you realise the world will end or so they think. The people who find food have that overwhelming draw and then the disgust at what they’ve done so they force themselves to be sick or who draw away from food completely and this is quite often fueled by images on social media of the so-called ‘perfect’ person or the popular celebrity. You can go on and on. The root of a lot of addiction is pressure from peers, from society, and from those that ‘love’ us. Pressure to belong to a group that is seen to be the best, the popular, the ‘in’ crowd and it takes a lot of courage for anyone to be different, individual, and self-reliant. Pressure from peers for young people is immense, and adherence to an unwritten set of rules is enforced 24/7 through social media or texts. Belonging becomes the only acceptable goal. Not that long ago when you were at home, you could have a break from the feelings of being judged or watched and do whatever you wanted to. Have downtime away from friends and social pressures. Now there always seems to be someone via social media wanting to know where you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing and if you should dare to be doing something other than the acceptable things in those unwritten rules then you become the subject of the latest group chat or ‘hate’ campaign. Turn the phone off I hear you shout, but that doesn’t solve the problem because everyone else is still there on their phones, part of this conspiracy against you or at least that’s what it feels like. They’re still talking to each other behind your back and you’ll only get it tomorrow when you see them or turn your phone on. Those so-called ‘friends’ who ask you to do things or send pictures you’re not comfortable with. Technology has a lot to answer for and here I am using it to reach you. There is a flip side to everything and sometimes it’s about balance. The other day I had to lead a reconciliation between two people because they didn’t know how to actually talk out loud to each other. They were ‘friends’ but communicated solely on social media. The idea of keeping eye contact was scary. Apart from hello, most conversations were held over Snapchat even when they were in the same room. They never sat with the other person's point of view because they were too obsessed with their own and were never faced with the emotions found in the spoken word through tone and inflexion or even more powerfully in silence. They ended up laughing together, crying together and starting to understand why certain things had all happened without the aid of emojis or text speaks. They learnt the value of body language and the healing of touch. Valuable life lessons. It is not only young people that are addicted to technology. While walking around the supermarket you hear people on their phones having conversations with those presumably back at home about what we shall have for tea or they’ve not got this so what shall I get? We’ve all been bumped into by someone talking on their phone while walking along a busy street and all witnessed near misses as people walk into the road on their phones in front of a car or even worse the car driver on their phone not reacting in time to a situation in front of them. Have you spent time somewhere that has no phone signal or internet access? The decision to ‘turn off’ is taken away from you and because of that becomes acceptable. It’s different when the signal fails because that just brings tension. You may feel withdrawal symptoms
for a while, but after a short time, things take on a slower pace. Time becomes irrelevant and life takes on the natural Circadian rhythms that we associate with times gone by. 24hrs later and you relax, sleep better, stop worrying about the pressure life excerpts you. In fact, you become the real you rather than what your society expects you to be. When you return to normality before the beeps begin you can feel the tension start to rise and then the need to find out as soon as possible what lies behind the beeps, tweets and messages that have built up for you. The addiction raises its head once more and it’s up to you how far you are swallowed by it. It can be quite a revelation to realise that the world does not stop just because there’s no signal. Do you learn from these experiences or do you avoid them? Ruth Hartley