29 Jun 2017

Me, addicted? 4 reasons why we may be addicts raising addicts {and a freedom manifesto}

There are so many ways to live a life.

There is so much meaningful and productive work that is possible - from building a home, caring for a need to building a business, serving a client, thinking up solutions, solving a crime...

There is so much variety in how we can rest, recreate and re-connect - from sleep to conversation and coffee, exploring new places, a good book alone or with another, serving a cause, learning a skill....

Yet, despite the choices available, we often feel that there is something to conform to. 

Get that university degree.
Earn a little more.
Get or go to the latest.... 

Youths prove this best. While seeking to establish a personal identity, they go through a season when they often dress, talk and behave in similar fashion. Small town or global village.

The dawn of music videos and the access today to real-time information sharing has now produced a global youth culture where behaviours, values, attitudes are being shared and mimicked at an astoundingly rapid pace.

Their need to be part of a tribe, to belong, is natural and good. But it is something to outgrow. This is known as individuation. But the forces of society are strong, and most of us outgrow our youth, but not necessarily the conformity. We are not quite free to march to our own unique drumbeat.

The pressure to conform has taken a new twist today, with technology. Societal pressures are now given a presence that makes it far harder for us to mature and individuate. Psychotherapist Colier in her book, The Power of Off, claims that it is making us addicts who raise addicts. She shares some telling stories we can well relate to:
One of my clients...comes into his therapy sessions every week with two smartphones...He glances down at his technology a minimum of once per minute...He does not feel it is in his power to turn the phones off, not even during therapy...
My daughter's friends sent me..photographs from an event my daughter attended. On the same day, i received an e-greeting card from another friend. Both required me t join websites and set up accounts...which would take precious minutes. I never saw the photos or read the card.
A man who had forgotten his smartphone charger dashed around the office..he was frantic 
Babysitters had to be fired because they were constantly on their devices!
A woman felt so lost and anxious when she accidentally left her phone at home...she finally took a cab home to retrieve it and check her email, even though she wasn't expecting anything particularly.
Of course, there is the pastor's all-time favourite: congregants on their phones during sermon time.

So is Colier right? Are we, broadband, high-speed internet users, becoming addicts and raising addicts?

Technology use gives us a shot of feels-good. This means that over time, our use will make us want to use it more, because our brains will reinforce the good sensations. This is how addiction forms, and the algorithms are designed to deliver just that. Facebook likes have gone from a simple 'like' to emoticons to floating hearts... Colier poses the question: if our pleasure baselines are elevated, will we need anti-anxiety substances to bring them back down? Is this linked to increased tendencies towards depression? Can this cause an entire generation who rely on technology so much to later abuse other substances because they need this 'high'? Sobering questions.

There's more colluding than the chemicals in our brains.

First, there is the entire knowledge economy, re-Renaissance thing (indeed, another author has called the Internet a fresh Reinassance). There used to be that mantra, 'knowledge is power'. So, we all love to know stuff. whether it is really sound, true, useful, is secondary. Knowing stuff is hip and makes us look in-the-know. As a subset, there is also the "I have a view" value in our ultra-individualist, post-modern milieu. We all know stuff and we all have some kind of view, both of which should be shared, as it establishes who we are.

After identity comes significance. Significance is about making a difference. But it is commonly confused with 'being popular'. Hence being busy and being available become indicators, if not pathways to success and significance. With technology, we have become available 24/7, and many of us refuse to admit to it because in our wired world, an opportunity may be lurking around the next minute when our phones buzz. So we become slaves to our devices. But it isn't just work.

Thirdly, most of us want to get the best of life. This translates into the best deal in our consumer world. This in turn means loads of time comparing information, viewing images, talking about externals that do not deeply touch our souls, although it provides a rush of gratification.

Once, I noticed that when I have a pocket of time, I would reach for my phone. I had nothing in particular I needed to do with the device. But I knew that it offers me ideas to fill my time. This way, my phone is no longer just a tool. A tool is something you pick up to use for a purpose. We can go to our devices with a purpose at first, but it is so easy for that purpose to segue into a series of time-consuming activities, such that it has a power that can decide what I see, think, feel, and act upon. The level of distraction and engagement is extremely high and it takes discipline to see it as a tool and put it down once the use is over. This leads me to the final point.

Humans are just edgy about the present moment and the presence of others. When we are honest, we know this is true. Very few of us know how to relax easily. Very few of us know how to connect deeply with others. Boredom creeps in quickly. Conflict teaches us avoidance. As a result, the present moment is often lost and the people we long to relate to intimately are often the ones we push away. Both of these cause us pain. Technology helps us to avoid both. We get lost in some other dimension, and become inattentive to where we are or who we are with.

To be fully present to the moment and to really connect with another soul do not come easily to us. Yet it is what makes us most alive and makes our lives most meaningful.

The fact that we now have vacations designed around being freed from technology is telling.

Humans will always be asking these questions:

Who am I?
Am I ok?
Who do I belong with?
What am I here for?

Technology is a poser pretending to offer us answers, and setting us up for disappointment. Our facebook likes, snapchat, instagram, twitter, Goodreads profiles, newsfeeds, shopping sites, Youtube and all will never give us the answers. They merely send us in a myriad directions, meanwhile, re-wiring our brains, and possibly inducing us into addictive states.

Is this how we want to live?

Which of the four reasons shared above resonates with you? Do you have further explanations to add?

Writing this post, I came up with a Freedom Manifesto, to prevent myself from being lulled into addiction.

Take the words of this Freedom Manifesto and make it yours!


I can say YES
to the present moment
to what is life-giving for me and others
to sun, wind, sounds, sights and smells
awaken to life bursting all around me
the grind won't wear me out
the grandeur marked upon my soul

I can say NO
when I want to
when I need to
to technology, books, food, sex
to people, work,
to being heard, seen, known

I can
sing, dance, draw, write, dream, imagine, work, rest.
For there is One who always hears, sees, and smiles.

I am free.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and 
do not be subject again to 
a yoke of slavery 
~ Galatians 5v1

Here is Nancy Colier's book:


  1. We are addicts, aren't we? I try going on detox and rehab every once in a while :)

    1. Let's help each other stay aware and vigilant!


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