Sunday 3 May 2015

Connecting and Addictions

It’s been a two week break. We left on 20th April for the South Coast of KZN in SA. We love this part of the world, because it is always warm – sun and sea, and there are a number of great beaches to swim at,  take walks, or just sit and read on. That is one of our family’s great addictions, reading. A friend of mine had a great deal of angst, because her daughter’s addiction was reading, while her son liked to play on the computer. She wondered why she seemed to discipline her son for his “obsession” more regularly than her daughter, when they were both addicted, albeit to different things. The daughter also never felt punished when sent to her room as all her books were there, while the son, receiving the same treatment, had no access to the computer. Makes one think, doesn’t it? I read a great post by Gail Schimmel on whether reading is actually a more noble addiction than any others, Read it here .

But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about. We get into a great holiday rhythm. My husband and I wake up and have a run – the speed inversely proportional to the number of waffles we have eaten. We then wake the girls, have a swim in the sea and have brunch together. After that, it’s work/read/nap until sundowners on the beach again – all together, and dinner, and then more reading/TV until we go to bed. It’s relaxing.

One of the reasons we all love the holiday so much is that we know there is enough time to connect, and space for each of us to do our own thing. We love to sit around eating together, teasing one another, and share the books we’ve been reading. We love to swim together, or even sit quietly on the beach together. Everyone is happy.

One of the things that interferes with our connecting is our social media interaction. We can’t really sit down without someone picking up a device and checking
what’s been posted, instagrammed, tumblered or tweeted. And the better the wifi, the worse this can be. 

And I have to confess, it's usually me who picks up my phone first!

The irony is that sometimes it is justified – we need our phones to make plans to get together, or to hear about others’ misfortunes, or good news – to help us be social creatures. Yet it distracts us from genuine social interaction, the real good face to face stuff. The truth is there is no replacement for  connection with those we love – it’s wonderful, and is one of those things that we can celebrate about being humans. Yet we don’t value it enough to protect it when we are experiencing it, or fight for it when given the choice.
I read SJ Watson’s Second Life yesterday - (Review here). It portrays this really well – how we so easily trade real life for profiles and fantasies in cyberspace. The horror is that all social media can be contrived and manipulated to make us want what is there, even if it isn’t the real thing, but is lies upon lies. I find that frightening. The fact that the contriving is so easy can make the attractiveness of social media so intense that we easily become addicted, and that really got me thinking.

I read an excellent article in January about addictions – not only to social media, but to drinking, drugs, and the like. The basic premise of the article is that we have gone about fighting addictions in all the wrong ways, because our studies have been flawed. If the experimentation with rats allows the rats to have social interaction, there are many more rats that don’t choose the heroin or cocaine (even after being addicted for 57 days) because they are in happy environments, bonded with the right things.

My favourite quote from that Huffington Post article is “So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.” The article concludes that even our tough love arguments – “I’ll love you if you stay sober, but reject you otherwise” - are flawed. We need to love unconditionally and connect with addicts to provide any help at all. Read the full article here.

However, this bit is truly worrying: “The writer George Monbiot has called this "the age of loneliness." We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before.”

So what hope is there for the social media addict, who has chosen the world created in cyberspace above the living loving human beings around him who offer his best chance of breaking that addiction? Are we able to make the choices that the happy non-addicted rats made, when given them?


Wayne said...

Your Profile pic on Fb is telling...
Great article, food for thought ;)

Lindsay said...

I can see you have had a good holiday…..this is very thought provoking! Great writing too. x

Bev Bouwer said...

Thank you Lindsay. That is very kind.