The Startup
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The Startup

The inconvenient cure for addiction

The 21st century may still be young, but it’s already racked up quite the reputation.

The technological age. The science generation. The era of orange-tinted megalomaniacs in positions of unfettered political power.

But above all else, there’s one feature that seems to define modern life above all others.

Convenience.

In the Netflix / online shopping / Uber Eats age, our every appetite can be appeased with little more than a finger tap. On a screen that happens to be conveniently located in — or at least close at — hand.

Gone are the days of hiking down to the local video store to pick a flick. Gone is the imperative to labour over lunch or dinner prep. Gone is the need to ever leave the house or encounter another human again, should we so wish.

This is a particular win for those who harbour agoraphobic proclivities, but also for anyone who tends to be a tad lazy or a bit busy (read: most humans currently residing on planet Earth).

The contemporary shift away from effort and towards convenience means that we can conserve our precious (and increasingly limited) time and energies, and channel them into other, more important aspects of life. Like watching strangers un-box miscellaneous items on YouTube. Or perusing Ebay for our cat’s next Halloween outfit.

But of course, nothing in this world comes free. And as with almost anything that seems too good to be true, convenience harbours a hidden cost.

Addiction.

When things are easy to access, we tend to consume them not only mindlessly but also much more than we otherwise would.

Fast food. Phones that ding. The delicious salty snack that was placed conveniently within arm’s reach during the movie.

There’s little question that ease of access encourages us to automatically imbibe.

But perhaps of greater concern, it also overrides the need for us to make conscious choices around our consumption. And as such, many of us struggle to comprehend — or even consider — just how hooked we actually are.

But as blissfully ignorant as we may be around our dependencies, the truth is that most of us are abominably addicted to something. Usually many somethings. And almost all of them are relatively convenient to access.

Cans of coke from that vending machine down the hall. Checking emails and messages that can be ubiquitously viewed from any of our many devices. Dinners that are delivered directly to our doors. Passive screen-based entertainment. Seeing our posts and pictures ‘liked’ on Facebook or Instagram.

So now that you’ve realised you’re a massive junkie (like the rest of us), let’s talk rehab.

We know that convenience underpins and perpetuates so many of our cravings. And as such, it seems to logically follow that inconvenience may just be the key to breaking free.

I struggled for years with an unhealthy Facebook addiction, before finally deciding to delete the app from my phone altogether. It worked like a charm. Without the ready means to constantly check it, I became increasingly apathetic towards my news feed and notifications.

Within a few short weeks, Facebook flicking transformed from an urgent compulsion to something that I could very much take or leave. I was cured.

Until, one dark day, I realised that I could access Facebook via my phone’s web browser. I logged in, did my Facebook thing, and didn’t bother to log out. And from that moment on, one quick click re-opened the brower back up, where Facebook was ready and waiting.

Needless to say, I regressed, relapsed, and realised that getting back off the bandwagon required more drastic measures.

So I changed my Facebook password to something cumbersome and impossible to remember, and logged out.

The next time the siren song of social media called, it was simply too hard to work out how to get back in and voila! I was back in remission.

The power of inconvenience as an antidote to addiction is undeniable. And it doesn’t just work for me.

One of my friends who was hooked on sugar physically imprisoned all of his treats in a special cupboard using locks and chains that required multiple codes and keys to undo.

Another elected to keep her TV remote in a distant room of the house to counteract her automatic reflex to switch on the box on whenever her bum contacted the couch.

In an age of convenience, most of us aren’t thrilled by the prospect of actively making things harder for ourselves than they need to be. But when convenience is the culprit of unhealthy habits that have us hooked, something has to give.

Sure — it seems counter-intuitive. But perhaps it’s the open doors that are keeping us locked in.

And barriers and blockades are what we need in order to break free.

Read more posts by Sharon Flitman at https://flitmusings.wordpress.com/

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