When we think of the term addiction, our minds normally turn to one of two things. To the serious kind and the repercussion involved, and then to what we might think of as the ‘non-serious’ kind, all those endless hours watching a particular television series, eating, and checking Facebook, because as we might say ‘I’m addicted.’
But what is it that defines good from bad? When I was growing up I had an addiction. I had an addiction to a certain television programme. I was unaware that this initially light addiction would eventually affect me on a very personal level, in both good and bad ways. What started off as a small boy sitting on a sofa every Saturday morning, flicking through the thousands of channels Sky offered until I got to UK Gold, eventually became a teenager who was so absorbed in a fictional world where making friends in real life seemed like the hardest thing in the universe.
Now this happens to a lot of people in a number of different ways, whether they realise it or not. Addictions can take their forms differently. People can get addicted to food, television, social media, and even other people. For a lot of people there’s self control, that ability to say no or to stop, but for some people this is easier said than done. Even the strongest of characters can stumble and fall at times.
How can you notice this? Is there even a way to notice this? In my experience, it’s the people closest who notice it first, but it’s normally those slightly removed who can tell whether or not something is good or if something is bad and say something.
Recently in my not so very exciting life, I went out and I took a moment to look around. The age of technology means that people can be in contact with people whenever they want, whenever they need, but at what point does it become unhealthy? If you ever require proof of the societal addiction to social media and constant updates, go out, people watch and measure the intervals between checking phones.
When you’re sat there with people, drinking and laughing and socialising, what is it that makes someone retreat to the world of social media by logging onto Facebook, Grindr or even Instagram? Are we all just fundamentally numb? To an extent social media now takes our place, proposing a manufactured image by which we interact and pry into other people’s lives on a handset. We oogle the ones we think are attractive just in case there’s potential for a shag.
Addictions are different for everyone, and we all have our own unique perspective on them. Sometimes we don’t even realise we have them. There are the harmless and then there are the harmful kinds, and when you’re caught up in an addiction you can’t always tell the difference between the two.
Self control doesn’t always appear and it can take a monumental effort in admitting and even confronting an addiction. For me, it was the realisation that the world didn’t have to revolve around the make believe.
Are we as a society threatened by the addictive qualities of social media?
I think we are. I think we have a problem, a problem which is more for some than others, where as a result we are losing the understanding of what socialising really is. The other week my phone was disconnected and for the first time, in about two years I had no real access to social media when I was ‘on the go’. After a while I didn’t care. I carried on and when I went out I wasn’t worried about what was happening in the world of Facebook or Twitter, what people were thinking of me, I just enjoyed myself.
I danced and I laughed and I talked to the people I wanted to talk to. Social media is a great tool but it also holds a dark side, a side where we become so self obsessed, so oblivious to everything else that sometimes we just need to have the strength to turn our backs, to leave the phone or the laptop on the side and simply look outside a window.