Addiction, for the most part, is escapism.
Most addictions are the result of individuals trying to escape the unappealing realities of life, be it pain, loss, emotional turmoil and suffering. Pretty much anything can become an addiction, including alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling, and video games, if used excessively as a coping mechanism.
The widely accepted definition describes addiction as excessive use of drugs or alcohol to escape, relax, or as a reward to enjoy life, with the belief that you can’t cope without them.
Addiction has two basic qualities: you do more of the thing than you would like to, and you continue to do it despite its negative consequences.
In addition, at least three of the following criteria must be met to be diagnosed for addiction: tolerance, withdrawal, limited control, negative consequences, neglecting or postponing activities, significant time or energy spent, and the desire to cut down.
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The digital world is no exception.
Most of us are addicted to our devices, social media, video games, and technology in general, and can check at least three of the above seven criteria for addiction in regards to our relationship with technology.
However, the devices, social media platforms, the internet, they are simply tools and one of the greatest inventions of our time. Our addiction to the digital world and technology is because the alternative sucks.
Boredom, emotional discomfort, FOMO, loneliness all can be avoided by simply tuning into our devices, and immersing ourselves in the vast amount of entertainment and distractions the internet provides.
Thus, when we demonize the internet, or our smartphones, or social media, we are just using them as a scapegoat for the real issue, which is that real life is complex, difficult and challenging, and we want to escape, at least some of the time, by any means.
In this fantastic article, the author argues that the issue with digital addiction is the void that is left after we give up our constant streams of distractions and entertainment.
“Eliminating the constant distractions of digital life only opens up another void. Stare into it long enough, and there’s no guarantee you’ll like whatever stares back.”
So, what is a possible solution?
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Most addiction reduction approach urges individuals to practice self-control by completely avoiding the substance. This flawed approach is gaining momentum amongst digital wellness proponents encouraging people to delete their social media accounts, get a flip phone, cut off home internet access, and so on.
However, just like not everyone who drinks alcohol develops an addiction to it, it is possible to have a healthier relationship with technology without completely cutting it out of our lives. It would be a bit delusional to claim that if only we got rid of our smartphones, deleted all social media accounts, and cut home internet that we would be freed from our addiction.
I’m guilty of this, evidently, and have been (re)thinking my approach and moving towards creating routines and structures that help me be conscious regarding my technology use.
I know people who have all types of social media accounts and are by no means addicted to it, and barely even go on it. I know people who never found the appeal of reddit or online forums in general. I personally can’t relate to addiction to Netflix and YouTube.
One of the ways in which we can practise digital wellness is by incorporating the core principles of digital minimalism, intentionality. Intentionality has led me to realize what aspects of technology I appreciate, such as e-books, and what aspects of it I have very minimal interest in, such as social media. This will be unique amongst individuals.
However, by being intentional and deliberate, we can curate technology use that addresses our personal struggles with digital addiction and find out what works for you to cultivate digital wellness.
How can you be intentional about your digital use?
Until next time… 🙂