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Suffering: The Truth of Addiction, Social Media & Life

I’ve spoken before on the disease of addiction but let’s take a closer look at what’s driving individuals to the brink. Is it just the few on the fringes or all we all suffering from this affliction? As always, reading my articles will leave you with more questions than answers but that’s by design.

Craving — The disease of More!

Credit: US National Archives

This should be easy to understand. More likes, more shares, more RTs, more money, more sex, more drugs, more… the list never ends. As children we’re raised to seek more. More marks equals higher status in the school. More athletic accomplishments bestows equal if not higher status among the students themselves. The spirit of competition which supposedly fosters character and ambition is in essence accelerating the disease of more. As life progresses, substance aims fills in the void and we’re now chasing the dragon on the mythical quest for more. This disease of more is what one might equate to the Buddha’s 1st Noble Truth: Dukkha. Loosely translated as ‘suffering’. This ‘suffering’ can also equate to stress. The suffering arises from craving — for things, experiences or people, which corelates aptly with the definition of addiction or the disease of more.

Fear — FOMO!

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If we discusses desire in the previous point, can fear be far behind? Fear and desire are two sides of the same coin. If you desire something, you’re also afraid that you won’t get it. The great fear of our times is FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. Everyone has the latest gadget, is traveling to the most exotic locales, is wearing the latest fashion, has the best shaped body, etc. So we are soaked in the fear that we’re missing out on what others have. Society ingrains this from an early age where kids are expected to get in the best schools and colleges, lest they miss out on the opportunities to get top ranking jobs. If you don’t get into the premier colleges, you would be missing out on the juiciest pay packages. The dating game brings with it another flavor of FOMO — will you miss out on your dream mate, your soul mate, your life partner?

One Infinite Loop

Isn’t it ironic that the world’s most addictive products come out of this very address? However this has (almost) nothing to do with Apple :)

“A true saying it is, Desire hath no rest, is infinite in itself, endless, and as one calls it, a perpetual rack, or horse-mill.” ~ Saint Augustine of Hippo
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The theory compares the pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep walking just to stay in the same place. This cycle of desire and fear which we’ve understood keeps us in place on the treadmill of happiness. This idea of relative happiness ensures you’re always stuck in the same place regardless of how fast or hard you walk. So an intern in a company earns less but falls under the same ratio of income to expense as the senior management guy who has to maintain his high rolling lifestyle with the higher pay. So the average person not really getting richer but it get’s harder and harder to get off the treadmill, the faster he goes!

Escape Velocity — Breaking Free!

Now that you’re aware of being caught in this addictive cycle (regardless of whether it’s substance abuse, social media enslavement or life’s incessant problems), let’s ask the big question — how to break free of this cycle? What does it take and where does it begin?

Today, an individual has access to data from across the ages and yet, the ability to comprehend that info as knowledge is lacking. Further more, those with knowledge may not have the wisdom to apply it in their own lives. It’s ironic that in this age where technology in the form of objectivity and logic rules, we are still as deeply caught in the treadmill of suffering. The Buddha had prescribed a path of living ethically with wisdom. Should we seek to imbibe a code (dharma) to live by and use logical reasoning (wisdom?) to guide us? As I said before, I trust you’re left with more questions than answers at the end of this read. We’ll be discussing practical solutions to tackle the questions that arise in the article that follow.

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” ~ Bruce Lee

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