ISSUE Magazine

Our Strange Addiction by Irina Tan

If you haven’t seen an episode of My Strange Addiction, it’s a documentary series about people’s addiction to what would appear to be abnormal behaviour or objects.

Beyond the often depicted addiction to drugs and alcohol, this show highlights behavioural addiction and other psychiatric disorders, rather than substance addiction.

I watch this show with a mix of incredulity (people attached to eating toilet paper?! People actually relishing pulling out their hair?!)… and detachment. Who’s to say what is an addiction or a mere quirk? Or something that is uniquely cultural? Or something that is less than medically recognised addiction, but is definitely a psychiatric issue? Or just plain foolishness?

Everyone is some sort of addict nowadays. This is not a psychiatric diagnosis, but a mere observation of the people around me…and myself. Gambling, food, sex, porn, computers, video games, the internet, work, exercise, spiritual obsession, shopping. I also deeply suspect that I am an addict myself, going by what are shown as addictions on the show.

Confession time.

According to family and friends, I’m addicted to the internet. I do everything online like shopping and banking, but mostly I do a lot of reading. Diagnosing health issues, reading product reviews, engaging in online discussions, “research” on Wikipedia, following blogs, reading Twitter updates, digesting news and tutorials. I have always had a love for reading books and everything else in printed form but once I’m connected, I read everything and anything. Like what would be the best prepaid credit card out there even if I have no intention of ever using one as I have an account-linked card already that I’m happy with. Or the benefits of horseradish. Often I find myself staying up way too late reading things that don’t necessarily add value to my life. And yes, I’m ashamed to admit that last bit because it sounds silly to waste a lot of time on useless activity.

What would My Strange Addiction featuring yours truly be like?

I’m sure the episode would film me being a social hermit and spending too much time online. It’d feature dramatic stats and bits of info about my so-called addiction, such as:

–          Spends up to 20 hours online a day… That’s up to 80% of her entire time in year

–          Has severe withdrawal symptoms when not connected to the internet…

–          Finds it difficult to maintain a healthy social life and an online/offline balance…

The thing is, though, many people I know are constantly connected via their mobile devices. Not many people go, “Yeah, I have to go home to look that up online once I am comfortably seated in front of my desktop” anymore. People are connected on the move, outside of their homes, where traditionally the main access to the online world once resided.

If I’m asked to explain the rationale for these habits of mine, I’d probably go with the fact that I love reading and learning even the most trivial of things and the internet simply provides a very wide forum for me to explore and carry over my love for reading.

So is my addiction really an addiction by today’s standards? I doubt I’m the only internet junkie.

This brings me to think that what constitutes an addiction (in a wide sense as depicted on My Strange Addiction) is subjective and culture-dependent.

Studying my behaviour and listening to what others have to say about me really made me aware of the need to analyse someone’s seemingly odd behaviour. I’m reminded of the fact that everyone is different and I can’t expect someone else to act and think the way I do, and thus can’t expect someone to find certain habits abnormal and abhorrent as I do. As for ‘classic’ substance addiction, well, I guess I tell myself to always try to empathise with a person’s situation, no matter how obvious it is that such addictions are destructive.

Who knew a TV show could lend so much insight, huh?

(Photo from PIXIMUS)

Irina continues to connect to the world via the internet, what more now that she is a member of the working force and does a lot of work online, but is happy to report that she maintains a healthy presence offline as well. Well, she hopes. If she looks dazed in person, feel free to give her a light smack to bring her back to reality.

This entry was written by irinajt and published on 09/11/2012 at 06:10. It’s filed under Essays, Irina Tan, ISSUE6, Musings, Writings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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