Monday, January 31, 2005

Modernity's Little Helpers

Once upon a time addiction was a term reserved for good old-fashioned chemical abuse. Now, it seems that the modern condition has fostered a new batch of neuroses and addictions upon the unsuspecting. The Observer interviews five "new" addicts in their weekend coverage:

Dependence, devotion, compulsion, addiction, fixation, obsession and habit are words that psychologists could well spend the whole 21st century debating and refining their definitions of. Some believe that almost anything one does, outside the humdrum - and even including the humdrum - is done as a solace or in order to avoid neurotic disorder. Smoking or sucking a pencil brings both comfort and avoids discomfort.

But the modern world (and longer life) offers or alerts us to more and more potential pleasures and displeasures; more things to stay focused on but more to be distracted by; more to buy and more not to afford; more chances to express individuality and yet more immersion in the crowd; more chances of intimacy and more of distance; more to withdraw from and more to suffer withdrawal symptoms from; more to be sensitised by but more to be de-sensitised by... simply more opportunities and more opportunities missed.

In the 21st century maybe most of us are - or will become - 'addicts' and it's just a matter of degree. And in the five 'addicts' on the following pages we may recognise parts of ourselves, may envy or fear their focus or devotion, may find what we wish to avoid, or what we are missing.

And what are these 21st Century addictions? Sushi, Viagra, surgery, text messaging, and online dating. All soon to be added to the DSM IV, no doubt.

No comments: