We are becoming a society of weaklings and confabulators. I recently read a piece in the Daily Mail in which a psychotherapist claimed social media are as addictive as Class A drugs. Yeah, he really said that. He was trying to explain why so many people can’t stay away from Facebook. It’s not hard to explain, and it has nothing to do with addiction.
First, we must understand the difference between habit and addiction. Cigarette smoking is often referred to as a bad habit, but there’s a very real addictive quality to nicotine. The body suffers from withdrawals when it becomes used to nicotine and suddenly doesn’t get it. That’s not to make an excuse for continuing to smoke. The addiction can be broken, but it takes willpower.
Such it is with the habit of social media. Look around any restaurant these days. Anyone who’s left alone at a table for more than a couple of seconds immediately reaches for the smart phone. I’m not going to claim that I haven’t done it, but I make a concerted effort not to use my phone as a crutch.
It’s as if we can’t deal with down time. What happened to just staring out the window, lost in our thoughts? Now we have to be constantly entertained. That’s not addiction. That’s just pitiful.
UKTV hooked up a British radio host to an MRI to see what happens to the brain when one sees pictures of friends on social media. They found that there’s a distinct reaction in the brain when we see friends on Facebook. They then took the huge leap of determining that such brain stimulation leads to social media addiction.
This is the very same argument made for gambling and pornography addiction. News flash: Anything that brings us pleasure is going to stimulate the brain. That doesn’t make it addictive. I’m sure my heart races when I look at boats on the Internet. It used to distress my wife so that I had to keep a page of naked women at the ready just in case my wife walked in and I was looking at boats.
Each time I discuss this on the radio I get the predictable response from the excuse-makers out there, but there is no such thing as porn and gambling addiction. There is, however, such a thing as people with absolutely no willpower or self-control.
That may sound crass, but we do these people no good by coddling. Heroine addicts have to get iced down in the bathtub. Alcoholics suffer from delirium tremens which affect the central nervous system. These are very real very physical withdrawals from a very real substance. To allow some guy who won’t cut off his computer to glom on to the addiction train is a slap in the face to people with real addictions and real problems.
I’ve heard of parents who claim their kids are suffering from gaming addiction because they can’t stop playing the X-box. Makes me want to shake these people. Go take the X-box away! I suspect this belief in some mythical gaming addiction is to mask the fact that these parents have lost complete control of their kid.
The Internet has opened up a whole new world to us that, a generation ago, we could only dream of. That world has a dark side. We all know it’s there. Most of us have the self-discipline to stay away from it. At least most of the time. Those who can’t and then claim addiction need to have their Internet privileges taken away.
Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.