William C. Moyers
Beyond Addiction by William C. Moyers
Improving our understanding of alcohol and drug addiction
Hooked on the Phone
In a rush to clear airport security and get to the gate at the opposite end of the terminal, I discovered that my cellphone wasn't with me. I'd left it in the car in the parking lot.
My tolerance is thin for travelers who slow the process at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. All these years after 9/11, I'm still amazed that anyone doesn't know what can and cannot pass through security, why bottles of water might as well be liquid dynamite or when and how to empty pockets and take off shoes and belts. I get impatient with travelers who gum up the process, especially when they are ahead of me. I'd like to chalk it up to my efficiency as a frequently flying road warrior. But it probably has more to do with one of my biggest defects of character.
Sans phone, for a moment I froze. To go forward without it or go back to retrieve it, that was my dilemma. My trip away from home and the office wouldn't even be 24 hours. Yet the thought of being out of touch with the rest of my world was more than I could bear. Beads of sweat dotted my forehead. My heart fluttered with anxiety. Through security I passed. Then I made a U-turn at the exit, walked 10 minutes through the parking lot and found succor with the phone in my hand and a bevy of fresh emails and texts and a voice message or two demanding my reply. Never mind that I had to repeat the security clearance. My craving for connection was satisfied. I was content.
Only later did I ponder what has become of me that I cannot go anywhere without a device that didn't exist a decade ago, when I got along just fine.
If you're somebody who doesn't understand why some people cannot stay away from alcohol and other drugs, what it means to be an addict or how substances can affect even the most basic decisions and behaviors, consider how your phone influences everything you do these days.
Texting behind the wheel of a moving car.
Watching videos while crossing a busy street. Checking messages in the middle of the night or the moment you wake up in the morning. Forgetting to turn off the ringer in church. Working at all hours. Sharing a meal with a friend while both of you stare silently at the glowing screens across the table from each other. These are actions that result from being under the influence of a device that has robbed us of what once mattered, compromised our quality of life or, worse, proved to be deadly.
This isn't to suggest that we've become addicted to our phones and the technology that meets our craving for everything from music to news to photos to share with faraway family or friends down the block. I'm not sure phone use is actually addictive.
But my observations of others and my own experience of leaving my phone in the car at the airport tell me that there isn't much of a difference among phones, cocaine, opiates and alcohol for those of us who cannot imagine going through the day-to-day without them. We have enough trouble living with them. We fear living without them.
Next time you are dismayed by the drunken driver, crack addict, absent parent or wayward child under the influence, take a moment to see their selfish behavior in the context of your relationship with that phone in your hand. Then try to imagine your life without it.
September 27, 2014