The time-robbing lure of addiction

The apps shook like an addict’s hand, the upper-right hand corner of each square marked with an “x”. The white “f” against the deep blue dared me to do it. I watched my index finger tap the “x” as if in slow motion.

I deleted the Facebook app on my iPhone. Again.

Next came Instagram. It was time to recapture the units in my personal bank account of time. Does it matter that I won’t “heart” another cat photo or ocean view for a while? No, it does not. My heart was telling me it was time for a break. Time to pause. Time to get into the world again.

When researching for the latest data on smartphone addiction, I came up with cross-sectional studies ranging from the Middle East to Australia to Europe to North America. It does not matter where you come from. The lure is real. And it robs your time — and well-being — like any other addiction does.

As I realized how much time I was spending, scrolling, tsking, pining and yearning through the social media universe, it occurred to me that I could be using my time doing things that reinforce my well-being instead of reducing it. And so I spent a delightful two days reading a book about another kind of addiction: alcoholism.

Parallel Universes: The Story of Rebirth by David B. Bohl is a raw, uncensored memoir about a man on the run from himself and his clouded past. Adopted just days after he was born, David grew up in an upper-class Midwestern family. He was loved. He was cherished. He was protected. By the age of six, he learned that being adopted meant he was none of those things. His existential angst morphed into a years-long battle with the bottle and the spiritual demise it brought. In the end, he won the battle, which became the source of his victory instead. He reclaimed his time. He reclaimed his life. He reclaimed his birthright to belong.

Ten years ago I interviewed David for The Power of Slow. When he reached out with his own book recently, I did not remember his story until I started reading it.  He was the man who owned 80 pairs of underwear spread over several houses and two continents as he slept in airplanes to “save time”. The realization that his pace of life would kill him was what saved him in the end.

His book is stunningly written with such beauty that I simply could not stop reading it until the final page. It made me think of my own addictions. It was what ultimately led me to nix the app on my phone. The main takeaway from David’s book is that connection is what protects us from harm. And sometimes it takes years of inquiry and getting it wrong to get it right.

True connection is not a “like” or a digitized heart. True connection is taking the time to listen to others, to truly connect and to let the people you love know that they are not alone.

We are in this Universe together after all.

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