Don’t call it an addiction

Is chess addictive?

For most people it isn’t. At worst, chess is a distraction. Yet, for the rare person who can’t go to sleep and routinely stays up until 3 AM playing back-to-back games of chess online, it starts to resemble an addiction.

Is cocaine a distraction?

Cocaine is an addictive substance. Calling cocaine a distraction seems unfair – it is too benign and does not do justice to the suffering of a cocaine addict and their family.

Where do mobile phones and social media lie on this spectrum?

In recent times, we see too many articles that call digital media an addiction. Sure, there is tonnes of psychological manipulation at work using these devices. But we can always fight back – we can turn off notifications, block ads and even disable the newsfeed on most of these apps, if we chose to.

What’s more? We can put our phones on airplane mode and keep our bedrooms device free. We can turn off their beeps, buzzers and coloured LED lights. By fighting back their ability to distract us, we can develop a healthy and meaningful relationship with the digital world.

When we call digital media an addiction, we are blaming the tech giants and letting ourselves off the hook. Sure, it is tempting to do that. But it is more empowering to recognize instead that it is a distraction and wrest back control over our own lives.

Inspiration: Nir Eyal

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