How was Robert Palmer ever popular? If those girls in the video looked any happier I could have scraped them off my shoe.
Now that I have your attention, let me elaborate on my original point.
I think it’s a fair assessment that we live in a culture dedicated to a couple of fundamental principles. First, the acquisition of wealth: which of course translates into the acquisition of material goods. Whoever dies with the most toys wins, blah blah blah. We spend the vast majority of our waking lives locked in jobs we hate, completing ultimately meaningless tasks, and going home stripped of our desire to live, all in the interest of a) basic necessities of life, and b) the hope of one day accumulating more than just those basic necessities. How many people burn their metaphorical candles at both ends so they can afford that brand-new SUV, or the cottage in Muskoka, or whatever shiny new trinket their pampered, entitled children have been whining about ever since that Jones boy down the street got one? It’s blatant consumerism and it can’t possibly be healthy in my estimation.
The second principle is related to the first: escapism. What does a cottage in Muskoka represent? What does that brand-new SUV allow you to do? Your kid sits around playing the X-Box you bought him – what does that mean? Our lives are so miserable and so devoid of deeper meaning that we crowd our consciousness with quick-fix solutions to a far more insidious problem. We fill our lives with unfulfilling crap and then convince ourselves we’re happy. Failing that, we mask our crushing depression and lack of meaningful direction with a cornucopia of fascinating, entertaining mind-altering substance and activities that convince us we’re not soulless corporate drones moving an unimportant cog in a vast, uncaring machine.
“Experts” have a name for this behaviour – they call it addiction, and the term has become such an overused blanket buzz word that I just had to write an article about it.
I’m no stranger to the concept of addiction. When I was very young I was told I’d have to watch myself very carefully in my adolescent and adult life because I was “predisposed” to alcoholism and drug addiction, among other things, due to my high IQ and an extended family history riddled with substance abuse. Since then I’ve seen the addiction label pasted to everything from shopping, to eating, to not eating, to self-mutilation, to porn – even to the internet at large, especially social networking sites like Facebook.
Yeah, it’s to the point where Facebook addiction is no longer something people joke about because they have nothing better to do at their 9-5 office job than look up old friends, complete mindless quizzes like “which stool sample reflects your personality”, and stalk ex-girlfriends through status updates and photo galleries (not that I’d know anything about that). More and more “experts” have started looking into the long-term effects of Facebook use and, predictably, have marked regular users with the big rubber ADDICTION stamp.
Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you – I wouldn’t believe you if you told me that either. So here’s a little proof for you.
Here’s my thing. I’m torn on the addiction issue. On the one hand, I’ve known many, many people who struggle with addictions to heavy drugs and alcohol and I understand the combination of physical and psychosomatic dependency can be truly devastating. I have nothing but sympathy and support for those who work to overcome those issues in themselves (though I refrain from pinning medals on those who do – getting on heroin was more than likely a choice, and therefore your own fuck-up: if you manage to fix a problem you created yourself, you break even in my book).
On the other hand, I have a much harder time reconciling the pain of addiction with something like shopping or porn. First of all, I don’t shop. I haven’t bought new clothes in close to ten years. Apparently in that time my fashion sense has come back into vogue (though I will never forgive the hipsters who have co-opted my black-frame Rivers Cuomo glasses and Chuck Taylor sneakers, because now the way I’ve dressed for ten years associates me with a cadre of personality-deficient Hot Topic drones).
I have a guilt complex about spending unnecessary money, probably deriving from growing up below the poverty line, so maybe that makes me immune to consumer culture. But to me, shopping needlessly is like gambling – you might get a “rush” at the time, but sooner or later you’re going to find yourself buried under the Mt. St. Helen of debt: a ticking time bomb that could explode at any time, leaving your credit rating in smoldering pieces or your legs smashed to smithereens by some guy with greasy hair called Vinnie.
And porn? You’ve got to be kidding me. I knew a girl once who left her boyfriend because he preferred watching internet porn to having intimate relations with her. Okay, if you’re playing Call of Duty I see why you’d rather go with the simulation than the real thing. But sex? If you’re so unattracted to your mate that you’d rather watch other people go at (badly) than take part yourself, you clearly need to get counseling or get another partner. At least if you’re addicted to something like World of Warcraft there’s some element of interpersonal communication going on, and it involves a pseudo-immersive environment. Porn is just bad entertainment. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t like it as much as the next single guy out there, but I can’t begin to fathom being addicted to fake tits, fake orgasms, and badly-written scenarios that would never, ever play out in real life.
But the one that gets me the most riled is this Facebook thing. I’m really sorry if I’m being insensitive (no I’m not) but if I were to sit in on some kind of support group meeting and I heard some bored housewife or attention-deprived teenager tearfully recounting their struggle against the insidious, destructive disease of Facebook addiction, my response would likely mirror Bob Saget’s “suck dick for coke” diatribe from Half-Baked.
I’m the first person to admit that we live in a woefully disconnected culture that’s just getting worse. Cell phones, iPods, instant messaging: all of it represents a series of digital walls we’re placing between ourselves and the rest of the world. And I fully understand how one can become dependent on that technology. I never owned a cell phone (EVER) before September of last year, and now, given the kind of work I do, I can’t imagine being without it. Well, I can, but it would make my life inordinately more complicated. Same thing with my iPod – jamming buds in my ears and listening to Frank Zappa or Propaghandi or Damien Rice instead of the mindless drivel that leaks out of the incessant talk-holes of my fellow commuters is the only thing that keeps me from gleefully carving a swath of righteous destruction through the crowd, leaving disemboweled bodies and a grab bag of amputated limbs in my wake.
I even think a Facebook profile can be a worthwhile investment of time and digital space. I wrote about this once before. But those five signs from the video earlier are patently ridiculous. Let’s go through them, shall we?
You are losing sleep because of [Facebook use]
Why? Are your friends’ mindless every-five-minute updates that interesting? Do you really care that much about what your astrological sign says about you? Or are you just titillated the rapidly-expanding advertising plastered all over your screen? (Let me guess, you have a “shopping addiction” too)
You spend more time on Facebook than you intend
This holds about as much water with me as what a coworker of mine said earlier about having “accidentally” taken too many illicit drugs once. He didn’t trip and land on a syringe, and you didn’t “lose track of time”. Every operating system features a clock. You don’t have an excuse. You can offend someone more than you intend to (lord knows I do that often enough) but you can’t stare at a blue-and-white screen for hours without owning up to the fact that you willfully ignored those little numbers on your screen denoting “time for dinner”, “time to go to bed” or “time to get your lazy ass to work”.
You become obsessed with old loves
You’re a creep; they’re over you; move on.
You ignore work in favour of Facebook
This one might be the most legitimate symptom, even though it’s not a symptom of addiction. It’s a symptom of what I said before – hating your mindless, soul-sucking job with such fervor and dedication that you will do anything, anything to avoid the pointless work they give you: including (but not limited to) taking two-hour bathroom breaks to play “Bejeweled” on your cell phone until the battery dies, hiding in the copy room reading the manual to the fax machine because even that is infinitely more interesting than your latest TPS report, and mindlessly scrolling through page after page of pictures of people’s dogs and babies and poorly thought-out office party shenanigans on Facebook. I don’t blame you, but I also refuse to let you off the hook by calling you an addict.
The thought of logging off leaves you in a cold sweat
Off the top of my head, there are only a few things I can think of that leave me in a cold sweat: any spider larger than my palm, any clown – at all, and those creepy porcelain dolls you see in movies that come to life and slaughter the unfortunate families of children who purchase them in shady pawn shops from men who look like your creepy uncle Tim. You want to know what’s not on my list? Logging off Facebook. Or any internet application for that matter. I know a lot of businessmen who can’t be separated from their Blackberries for more than a few minutes without going into cardiac arrest, and I guess if you’ve got millions of dollars invested in some dog-and-pony show you desperately hope isn’t going to bankrupt itself at any second, I can sort of see that. But Facebook simply isn’t that important. Your life isn’t going to end if you miss Bonnie McFatass’s update notifying everyone she knows that she’s uploaded another seven hundred photos of her cat, Mister Binky. The thought of missing out on an entire album’s worth of Mister Binky playing with string should never, ever, cause you to develop cold sweats.
The best part about that video is the description tag:
“Certain behaviour could signal a problem with the social networking site.”
Certain behaviour signals a problem with you. And I’m not talking about some kind of vicious cycle of addiction over which you’re powerless. Say it with me. It’s. A. Website. It’s not important: it’s not even that interesting, and if you lack the basic willpower and common sense to log off – or better yet, turn off your computer and throw it out the window – I’m amazed you lived through childhood without succumbing to some stranger’s offer of “treats” if you just hop in the back of their sketchy off-white panel van.
We need to stop trivializing issues like addiction by slapping the moniker on any spineless activity for which we don’t want to take responsibility. Serious addiction ranks with PTSD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. An overuse of Facebook ranks with compulsive masturbation – it might feel good to you, but ultimately you’re fucking yourself – and it’s not a legitimate problem.
Turn this shit off and find a better excuse for your neuroses. Better yet, stop looking for excuses and get on with your life. Such as it is.