Name: Robert E.L. Ryals
From: Tempe, Arizona
Drug’s, Social Media, Smart Phones
Robert Ryals Drug’s, Social Media, Smart Phones Arizona State University
Apparently, the issue with addiction in America is not necessarily restricted to a specified community; it’s the whole nation. More than 21 million Americans are suffering from at least one addiction that is substance based. However, there are also hundreds of millions of Americans that are addicted to their smart phones, tablets, social media, vaping, sugar and a plethora of other addictions. Why are we addicted to so many things? Let’s delve a bit deeper and see if we can iron out some of the root causes, well, at least speculate a bit on what’s plaguing our society.
My parents, friends, cousins, strangers, and whomever else may have been in earshot of my discussion; have always emphasized the importance of obtaining an education in order to be on the fast track of upward mobility. The pressure and the feeling of letting them down, as well as myself, has always been a burden that’s been fused in me like the blue blanket Linus clutches (from the Peanuts comics). In 2008, I strived to be everything that my cohort expected me to be, and worked really hard to make sure I was living up to everyones expectations. I made sure I played sports in college, maintained a good standing amongst my peers in regards to my appearances and latest fashion trends, literally did everything in my power to ensure I was appeasing ‘them’. Until one day I had enough, I quit football, dropped out college, and began to retreat into isolation. I detoxed from social media, materialistic relationships, and societal based standards of success and did…nothing.
It was during this period of engaging in nothingness that I had an “aha!” moment. I began questioning the reasoning behind my devotion to keeping up appearances; my unquenchable thirst of seeking validation from everyone and anyone that was willing to provide it, and, engaging in activities and happenings that were breeding grounds for poor choices. The only reason I was in school at the time was to make sure I didn’t piss anyone off. Make sure I was on the fast track to participating in the game of American capitalism. Making sure I was prepared and equipped to join the ranks of my future superiors, where I earn the privilege of being able to brag about being overworked and underpaid…while I loathsomely exchange drinks after work with miserable, stressed and depressed work peers…using various spirits to squelch cries for help from being on the edge of a psychotic nervous breakdown…for happy hour.
Essentially, the whole system as we know it deeply flawed. We bemoan our loved ones who have become victims of drug or alcohol related abuse, then, we ignore the very addictions that plague us everyday.
We often engage in addictive behavior or become addicts inadvertently while we try to climb the American societal success ladders. We become workaholics, which consists of the following symptoms:
Consistently working long hours at the office, day in and day out
losing sleep in order to work on projects, tasks, or duties
being overly obsessed for work-related recognition (attaboy or attagirl)
having a deeply entrenched fear of work based failure
paranoia stemming from work performance
personal relationships deteriorate on your “quest for work greatness”
avoiding personal relationships and interactions by using work as an escape
using work as a medium to combat depression
using work to avoid processing life events (death, divorce, and financial hardships
This is one of an arsenal of addiction types that plague us on a daily basis (this type of addiction can be assessed by The Bergen Work Addiction Scale).
But it stems from our societal norms. We instill in our youth the importance of working hard, working long, and working often as a guarantee that you too will be able to join the ranks of the American Aristocracy. What we fail account for is what happens when we encounter shortcomings.
As human beings, we will fall short, we will make mistakes and its possible we wont be able to deliver on promises and projects. We cope with the pitting feeling of defeat by numbing the pain. Culturally, after a tough loss, failure, or other perceived shortcoming, we find ourselves saying “I need a drink” or “I need some (insert unhealthy pleasure zone / stimulant).
We approach physical or behavior based addictions with this kind of laissez-faire stance that continues to encourage our fellow Americans to seek ways to cope with the pressure of succeeding in the United States. This brings me to the next cancerous ailment that is plaguing all Americans…SOCIAL MEDIA.
Psychologists have estimated that around 35-40 million Americans meet and exceed the current criteria for Social Media Addiction. The correlation between depression, suicide, obesity, and drug addiction can be attributed primarily to our beloved, reveled, and in some cases envied American culture and American way of doing business. Social media has become so entrenched in our lives, that even when we are off of social media, we are still there, i.e., Snapchat Dysmorphia.
We have become divided as a nation and find solace in social media ‘reverberation’ spaces, where your preferred idea can be forced into your algorithm and you can filter out other alternative viewpoints and ideas, causing additional fuel for risky induced behaviors, the application of substance based abuse, and a blitzkrieg pn your mental health. So, given the reality of our American plight, we can be done to combat this as individuals as well as on the national level?
Remedies to our crisis will require a pivotal shift in the way the USA does business. Courtesy of the wrath of 2020, the global economy has been forced to enact alternative methodologies for conducting business in the name of continuity and desperate reaches for profits. This is the opportunity for Americans to lay the framework for systemic change for laborers and workers across the country. If we can de-stigmatize the notion of getting mental health treatment via therapy, expand the vacation and maternity/paternity leave for workers, and reduce the “normal work week” from 40 to 30, we would make a significant impact on our national populace. Logically, we would also have to invest in a more robust mental health system, because if the new patient capacity were to increase suddenly, we would overwhelm the mental health networks. At the personal level, the best we can do is actively engage in weekly device detoxes. Which consists of going multiple days without logging into social media sites, such as Instagram and Facebook, and gradually increasing ones length of time in abstaining. Until one reaches a level where they can only go on said sites 1-2x a month.
In conclusion, the reason this piece was written in this tone is to highlight the uncanny resemblance of substance abuse to behavioral abuse. Many addictive behaviors all have stemmed from being in a society that does not value the worker, has a disregard for the ease of social mobility and the active improvement of mental health. More empathy needs to be applied towards people suffering from substance abuse, and, encouragement and a celebratory space needs to be created when someone makes that step to engage in a therapeutic session.