Modern Addictions that Affect Youth

Addiction to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol have been around for quite some time. However, with the change in the world and lifestyle of people, new forms of addictions have emerged. From what I have observed, most of these modern addictions that affect youth of today fall under three broad categories. Let’s take a look at these and look for ways to steer clear of their pitfalls.

Categories of Modern Addictions

1. Excitement Addiction

I was an avid watcher of anime, mostly of shōnen action variety. A most captivating characteristic of these cartoons is the level of excitement they can build up. However, once you watch the highest quality anime, few other things in life can produce a similar level of excitement. So if you finish viewing a series, it leaves a vacuum within. I have had similar experience after finishing long Role Playing Games in which you get to save the world or a galaxy (Star Wars Knights of The Old Republic – KoTOR – being a notable one among them). It is the withdrawal symptoms that we experience when we stop viewing, that shows us how addicted we are to it. Even anime of lesser quality will not help in overcoming these symptoms of depression and uneasiness. Same is the psychology of people who watch 24/7 news channels that are always looking for something sensational enough to ignite the excitement of viewers. Thankfully, I’m not in the habit of watching news, and so have noticed this addiction only in others!

Stock market is another source of excitement. Those who involve in day trading will want to continue doing it not for the money it makes them, but for the “kick” of it. For those deep into this addiction, days on which the market remains closed will appear like a year spent in a dark dungeon. Similar options (such as gambling) would have been available in the past as well, but the rise of the internet has made them ubiquitous in our age.

2. Attention Addiction

With small nuclear families and constant attention from parents, many young men and women have grown an addiction to limelight. This is true even in the case of parents who do not spend much time with their children, because the latter are always made to feel that they are the center of the universe. This is why they want everything they do to be acknowledged – be it watching a movie, enjoying a holiday, or even drinking coffee. Initially, they will get some attention on social media where they post regular updates that are completely irrelevant to everybody else (including their parents, perhaps). After some time, as the attention decreases, they’ll get dejected and depressed. Without the constant acknowledgement, like and support, they’ll lose motivation to do anything.

Starting with frequent change in profile pictures, the symptoms can range to creation of photography pages (which are typically discontinued after some time when they fail to evoke the expected response) and blogs. Even the depth of friendship comes to be measured by the support given for these initiatives (e.g., by regularly recommending, commenting and sharing).

Outside of social media, this craving for attention usually results in a kind of personality that is referred to as freak (more commonly freakan in Malayalam). Some stretch it further to create controversies and gain notoriety. But no matter what they do, after some time people get used to it and cease to pay any more attention, and this is typically when they start developing withdrawal symptoms, or think up something even more shocking.

The typical path of an attention addict is, thus, from being awesome to awful.

3. Activity Addiction

Living in the fast paced world, a lot of people I know are addicted to activity. They can’t sit idle for even a minute. When not in action, they get restless. To feel meaning in their life, they need to do something. This is typically the quality of rajas, one of the three gunas controlling our behavior. My guru, Paramahamsa Yoganandaji, referred to restlessness as the most delusive shaft of Maya, because it keeps us from meditating on and realizing our true self.

Seeds of this tendency are sowed by parents who use television or mobile phones for baby sitting. A subconscious influence of the constant flicker of the screen coupled with a lack of training in the art of doing nothing can easily make these children helplessly dependent on change and action.

The Way Out

The logical question that follows is what can be done to check these addictions. The general strategy is the same as in curing any addiction, and starts with knowing about these influences and understanding the extent to which they control us. The next step is to gradually weaken them by cutting off their supply lines. Naturally, it will not be easy in the beginning (which is why they are called addictions). If you find that  you’re suffering from any of these addictions, here are four tips to try out.

  • Cut out social media – Depending on the level of addiction, it might make sense to completely shut down social media for an initial period,  and then resolve to use it only for the intended purpose that you want it to serve. However, make sure you follow this tip only after recommending this article on your favourite social network(s)!
  • Spend time with people you love – before you know, they’ll fill your thoughts and kick out the addiction.
  • Exercise regularly and meditate more often – Yoga and traditional martial arts, for example, can help improve control over body and mind and keep them fit.
  • Connect with Nature – The closer we are to nature, the more tranquil and self-aware we become.

If there are other modern addictions that do not fall into these categories, or if you know of smarter ways to tackle them, feel free to use the comments section to share your thoughts for the benefit of others.

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