08 August 2013


I'm constantly astonished and dismayed when I see the word "addictive" used with the new games that come out, as if it were a positive word to be throwing around.  Really?  The more addictive something is, the more time people are going to waste on it, obviously, and the less time they're going to have to be able to focus on more important things in their lives, such as relationships, education, self-development, reflection, work, and so many other things.

We seem to take a rather cavalier attitude towards our addictions these days.  We don't put much importance on them, and we allow them to take their toll on our lives without even trying to deal with them.  From the people who spend hours each day in role-playing games to the people who can't go for two or three minutes without checking their Smartphones, we witness every day a growing number of individuals who are just fine with being addicted, just fine with ignoring really important elements of their lives in favor of a bit of entertainment or the chances of getting a little bit more information into their brains.

We used to dread addictions because of the physical tolls that they took on our bodies--cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol changed our behaviors in very obvious ways, and damaged our bodies as they did so.  It was easy--especially with alcohol--to see an immediate cause-and-effect relationship between the addiction and the changed behavior. Now, though, our addictions are much more insidious in the effects that they have on us.  The person who is spending six hours a day in front of a TV screen could be a leading authority in their chosen field of work, if only they spent that time researching and learning more about their work.  The kid who's sitting in class thinking about the next text message that he's going to send isn't really paying much attention to what's being done in class, and could easily be an "A" student if his mind weren't occupied by something that hasn't even happened yet.

If our addictions aren't hurting others, then it's easy for us to allow ourselves to stick with them and not try to kick them.  But just because we don't see the results of our addictions doesn't mean that we aren't hurting other people.  I think of the little kids out shopping or walking in the park with a parent, who's spending his or her time on the phone instead of being with the child.  The message there is quite clear to a child:  "There's something more important than you."  It may not be the intended message, but it's a message that comes across loud and clear to a young mind.  I think of the co-workers who have to take up the slack for the person who isn't doing all of his or her work because of other things that come up on the computer, such as games or Facebook.  That person is still getting a paycheck, but not doing much for it.

What kinds of addictions do you have?  What kinds of things keep you from being the person you could be if you devoted more time to studying, learning, listening, or just being with loved ones, or going for a walk in the woods to recharge yourself?  What kinds of addictions do you see other people dealing with, and how do they affect those people?  Remember, just because the effects of an addiction aren't as obvious as slurred speech or lung cancer, we can't fool ourselves into thinking that the new addictions are any less harmful than the ones that have been around since long before the technological era.  And we really do have to deal with them if we want to get the most out of the lives that we're living.