We live in a society.
I read this op-ed on the WSJ today talking about deleting social media. I had the same cynical reaction that I always do when someone announces they are going to be deleting their social media temporarily. For one — anyone who would truly wants to remove social media from their lives probably doesn’t need to write an op-ed about how their going to remove social media from their life. So, the mere act of writing the article already negates the purpose of the purge. But also — I consider this to be fairly intuitive, but I guess not — purging social media won’t purge the influence of social media in your life.
I think it’s quite naïve to believe we could return to a pre-social media world after we have lived in a world where social media did exist. The concept exists, and by choosing to not using it we are negative it. It reminds me a bit of Sartrean conception of emptiness and negation. Without social media, we can perceive a lack of something. It is our childhood bedroom with its contents stripped out. The interior no longer exists, but the emptiness speaks just as loudly as if it were still present. It is the same with social media.
Social media is life. Social media is structure. Social media is necessity.
Addiction is a necessary component of human experience. What we chose is what we happen to be addicted to. There isn’t a world without addition. Pretty sure God made they abundantly clear when he made humans addicted to water and air. Our lives mirror our instincts, and our most primal instincts compel us towards water and air. Without water and air, we die. If we don’t get what we need, then we die. It seems pretty clear to me that we weren’t born to not have addictions. If that were the case, we would just exist in absence of necessity, allowing us to live the contemplative life by diving deep into the depths of the ocean and never resurfacing. That would be the dream. The one thing standing between me and this dream is my addiction to air. Lame.
Clearly we were born to be addicted to something. Humans happen to be addicted to air. Cockroaches seem to be able to live without air, so if we’re being honest cockroaches are transcendent beings and we’re just fodder. Somewhere along the line, we confused our physiological needs and psychological needs. You might ask, can’t we control our psychological needs? The answer is yes. But never entirely. We can certainly tame ourselves from our animalistic instincts the same way you can train a dog to stop taking a shit on your carpet (except mine), but we will never reach a state where we are fully free from the psychological needs. The same logic applies here. If we weren’t born to have psychological needs, then why would we have them? Checkmate. If God really wanted us to be free from worldly desires, then he wouldn’t have created them in the first place. Since none of us are free from psychological needs, it is clear our anatomy wasn’t designed to live a life free from psychological needs. I say we lean in.
People say they want to be free from things — from social media, from consumerism, from want. Do they actually? That in itself seems like another want in itself. If we weren’t born for wanting things, what’s the point in being born at all — to not want things? That seems a bit ridiculous to me. What’s the point in challenging our nature? It seems like just an extension of this death wish that never left us since we were born. Why would you challenge your own life when you could just as easily embrace your wants and figure out how to reconcile the life you want and the life you think you want?
Realistically, I think a lot of people spend too much time doing what they think they want instead of what they actually want. Psychological defense mechanisms ranging from deflection to repression to projection make it very hard for us to truly understand the core of our psyche. Instead, we have a psyche that is all over the place and a sense of false rationality to make sense of our emotions. We have inherited too much from Early Modern thought. You can read Kant or Hume or whomever and think you have your thoughts straightened out, but that’s so last century. There has never been certainty, and if this century has told us anything it’s that nothing should be trusted — especially not your own thoughts.
We are detached from our thoughts as a byproduct of postmodern ethics. A major critic of postmodernism is that it is an illegitimate aestheticization of politics and discourse. I say, aesthetics precedes ethics, so nothing is really illegitimate. Claiming brackets of legitimacy and illegitimacy itself is a very modernist way of doing things, which is exactly what postmodernism is trying to avoid. Why does there have to be inclinations to do anything. All the exists is post-structuralist individualism, which is deeply internal and absent of canonical inherited ideology. The only thing that truly exists in our postmodern reality is our skepticism, our detachment, and our irony.
I personally like drinking tea a lot. So much that if I went without tea for a day, I would probably be very unnerved. Does it qualify as an addiction? Well, if I can’t live without it, probably. But it’s better than being addicted to soda or cigarettes. At least when I drink tea, I only ingest a couple of calories as opposed to a bucket of sugar. At least when I drink tea, I wouldn’t have to worry about increased risk in lung cancer when my hair starts to turn grey or putting on weight in my twenties when I’m supposed to stay lean for dem Insta photo ops. The only thing that really matters nowadays are Insta photo ops. You can get lung cancer treated, but you cannot redo a bad photo op. That shit stays with you. Some people think the meaning of life is to create art or make money or make a “impact” — whatever that means. The only sense of meaning I find is from detachment and skepticism. Personally, I think the meaning of life is to be Tik Tok famous, and that’s the direction I’m working towards.
I ask — what’s the difference between an addiction and a necessity? Addiction is an aestheticization of negative necessity. But why any necessity bad? Addiction, allegedly, is bad. Addiction wasn’t always bad. Addiction, in many ways, represents the pursuit of freedom — to want something the modernist world doesn’t want us to want. The subsequent vilification of addiction presents an attack on the fundamental freedom of being. The modernists did that to us. (Remember, if you want to blame anyone for anything, blame the modernists. The meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs? The modernists. The fall of the Roman Empire? The modernists. COVID? You guessed it. The modernists.)
I think it’s time we reclaimed the world from the modernism, starting with addiction. Obviously, we don’t consider eating food or drinking water an addiction. But, then again, there are some foods and some beverages that we do consider to be an addiction. If you drink too much water, it’s not called an addiction, but if you drink too much vodka, which is 60% water mind you, then it’s considered an addiction. If you eat too much raw spinach, it’s totally fine, but if you eat too much fast food all of a sudden it’s considered to be an addiction. At present, the medical community, specifically the psychiatry community, dictates what is and what is not considered to be an addiction. Why do a bunch of doctors who don’t have an interest to understand us get to label us as sane or not? While necessity carries the connotation of acceptability, addiction carries the connotation of undesirability.
It reminds me of Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, specifically to his point how society organizes individuals into desirable and undesirable categories and how science has authority to dictate this categorization. I think that’s totally out of wack, mainly because medicine has its own set of priorities that are not necessarily in line with what is considered to be accessible to most individuals. The role of medicine reinforcing certain conceptions of addiction in some aspects of life over others maintains its authority in dividing the world between acceptable traits and unacceptable traits. Who cares if you drink to much? I think most college kids drink to much. They turn out fine, so why do we give so much authority to scientific and medical communities to dictate what is right and wrong for us? (It’s because of the epistemological association between scientific knowledge and truth. Who came up with that? The modernists.)
I ask again — what is addiction and what is necessity?
I’ve picked up a habit of drinking a lot of sparkling water lately. Is that an addiction? What if, hypothetically, my sparkling water habit got in the way of my life? Well, it does, technically. I probably am unable to function without sparkling water. (Believe it or not, if I go one day without sparkling water I dry up into a raisin and can only be revived in a bubble bath of filled with the most pristine sparkling water from Costco. I generally prefer the store brands, but I guess I could settle with Perrier. It was a very unpleasant day, and I don’t want to talk about it.) When I work, I have to go downstairs every couple of hours to fetch a new can of sparkling water. It affects my life greatly in that sense because I could have spent the two minutes it took to go downstairs and back upstairs a lot more productively than I did before.
That brings me to another idea — productivity. A lot of the medication definition of addiction predicates on how the habit affects our life. Productivity is a virtue according to who? The medical community? Who cares if I’m productive or not? I generally like moving around, that’s really a personal preference. If I want to lay on my stomach for five hours while I listen to some Mitski every day of the year, then who cares? What is the medical community going to do, diagnose me as insane?
The medical community operates off a modernist sense of ethics, yet it portrays itself as an arbiter of truth. It holds a consensus over what is a good life and what is a bad life, and that begs the question — what is a good life and what is a bad life? The closest idea of what we have to a good life is a productive contributor to society, which is a spinoff of modernist thought, of which the medical community operates. Sometimes, I’m on the same page with this definition — I do like me some productivity — but I also recognize that a lot of people don’t necessarily have the same definition of a good life as me. It begs a series of questions: What is productivity? How do we measure productivity? Is productivity a virtue?
One way that we commonly use (but is pretty wrong a lot of the time) is income generation. The idea goes: if something makes us money, then it is clearly a productive use of our time, which means if you are make a lot of money you are pretty much immune to whatever the medical community throws at you. Medical ethics are tied with neoliberal ethics. This is a lot of layers of abstraction, but it’s still under the same philosophical system I’ve been using until now. It’s like this restricted laissez faire approach to medical science. As long as you continue to live a high-functioning life, then nothing you could possibly do could count as a negative practice of necessity — of addiction, for example.
I like listening to music when I study. If I don’t listen to music, I have a hard time studying. Is that an addiction? Well, I like listening to music. Since it’s in service of studying, which indirectly will help me make money in the future, it is not considered an addiction. In fact, it seems as long as I continue to live a life occupied with the same level of productivity, it seems that nothing I could do would qualify as an addiction because it does not adversely affect my life. If sparkling water helps me make money and remain a contributing member of this society, then I immune to sparkling water being an addiction. It is what we would consider to be truth since it came from the medical community, but it is far from the truth. The negative connotation associated with the etymology of addiction shouldn’t be there at all. Addiction is an inevitable part of life. The definition of addiction is political.
Life is quite boring. Even when you have things to do, you will still find opportunities to be bored. It’s that ingrained in the human condition. A good way to alleviate boredom is to preoccupy yourself with something. If you preoccupy with something often enough then it becomes a habit. The question is — when does a habit morph into an addiction? I personally don’t think there’s ever a difference. Habits are addictions, just innocuous ones by our standards of what is considered to be acceptable and unacceptable behavior based on criteria we don’t entirely understand nor agree with coming from the medical community. Ingrained in the idea of addiction is a set of values of what is considered to be an ideal life, and what is considered to be an ideal life differs greatly from person to person.
I have my idea of what I consider to be life I want. This life involves me drinking at least three cans of sparkling water a day. Some people would find that to be weird, and I would see where they are coming from. But, under my set of values, I consider drinking three cans of sparkling water a day to be a pivotal part of my life. There are many lives we exist in simultaneously. There is the life we have, the life we think we have, the life we want, the life we think we want, the life we don’t want, the life we think we don’t want, et cetera. This intrapsychic identity amounts to the internal representation of postmodern ethics. There is only way way to live life and that is by rejecting modernism.