Anything can become an addiction. Medical science is slowly coming around to this idea, so it doesn’t sound so glib and false anymore, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to ignore the science and just move along.
Addictions are a problem because they steal time. That’s their main function. If I do anything compulsively, to fill time and distract myself from discomfort of any kind, and the thing I’m doing is not making positive contributions to my life, then it is just an elaborate waste of time.
This goes for the extreme one’s that everyone recognizes — like heroin. Especially because it’s illegal, heroin consumes an enormous amount of the addict’s time. In the worst cases, it takes all of it.
But it also goes for the trivial examples of which nearly everyone is guilty — like newsfeeds and social media. Time lost, no value added.
Every time we get a hit, we lose more time. The harder it is to get a hit, the more time we waste. The more time we waste, the worse we feel, and the greater the temptation to distract ourselves away from that feeling with the time-wasting addiction.
Addictive craving motivates us to trade bigger desires for smaller ones. Being an addict is like persistently buying a buck with a twenty. And this, too, is just a function of time. The dollar is tempting because it’s right in front of you, and the twenty is a day, or an hour, or five minutes away. “If I take the buck now,” you think, “I can always go find a twenty later.”
But there’s always going to be a buck in front of you, and it’ll always cost the twenty that was five minutes away.