When we think of addiction we normally think of drugs, alcohol, gambling; age old vices that have and often in cohorts with one another, exercised a pernicious grip over millions of victims from the ordinary to the star-studded. But what about more modern addictions, 21st century addictions, ones which (not to play down the severity of them) just don’t sound as intoxicating, as ravaging, as ruinous. I’m talking addictions to shopping or showering, to a certain type of ricotta cheese, addiction to Sagittarius men. The most symptomatic of the world we live in now - ’Digital Addiction’.
Now I know it’s actually sometime since mobiles ceased being an object of ours and became an appendage of ourselves, and I know that kids ditched building dens and playing conkers in favour of TV and shoot ‘em up games at around the time the Berlin Wall came down. But only recently has one witnessed or experienced those compulsive needs to check online correspondence at nanosecond intervals, to photograph very ordinary food and broadcast it to the world, to respond to work emails whilst eating Christmas dinner. Social Media, the introduction and subsequent explosion of smart phones and tablets have, in a matter of a few years, created a society almost permanently attached to the digital world. As a trend it’s also only likely to strengthen; what with Smart technologies, online consumables and new social networks encouraging us to transfer more of our lives into the digital sphere and improved mobile connectivity contriving to keep us continually ‘plugged in’.
In South Korea (the most wired country in the world) nearly 20 per cent of teenagers are classified as being ‘addicted’ to smart phones, prompting the government to employ campaigners to go into schools and lecture children and parents on the hazards of a tech-obsessed lifestyle. Ominously for the UK we've recently overtaken Japan as the biggest users of mobile data in the world. Whilst earlier this year a national newspaper told the story of a girl as young as four receiving treatment for an ‘I-Pad addiction’. In the US I think we can be fairly sure that someone somewhere has married their I-Pad.
But have no fear, there are things we can do before we become slaves to our digital devices. Enter clinics specialising in ‘digital addiction’ and the somewhat more gimmicky and less serious sounding ‘Digital Detox Holidays’.
One of the biggest operators in this new market is the American company - Digital Detox who offer you the chance to not only disconnect from the digital world but also to re-connect with the natural world. We’re talking meditation, arts and crafts, hiking and singing kumbaya round a camp fire. Pretty much the kind of camping trip (minus the meditation perhaps) anyone growing up in Britain during the latter half of the 20th century would have had to endured and then dreaded on a yearly basis.
Of course the bizarre nature of all of this is while those camping trips might have receded into the distant memory, it genuinely wasn't very long ago that during a trip to a relative in Devon or Scotland we’d be stuck without mobile reception or internet. Perhaps those still without such amenities/dangerous vices should start considering a trade helping the digital junkies ‘un-plug’.