Obsession or Addiction? America’s Culture of Dependency
A Google search for “Americans are obsessed with” turns up 12,900,000 results that include the following:
- IPA Beer
- Anyone with the last name Kardashian (or Jenner)
- Boxed Water
- White Teeth and products that make the skin glow
- Fast Food and pop-up restaurants
- Eating Organic and anything that includes kale
- Smartphones, tablets, and the internet
- Anxiety and Depression
- The Walking Dead (not to be confused with day after a sleepless night)
That’s only a small sampling of web pages devoted to our obsessions, which many people falsely call “addictions,” although a few of them might be true in that assertion. Many of these obsessions might not be our own fault though.
The reality of life in the United States is we face a constant barrage of advertising and marketing aimed at creating dependency. Whatever your race, age or gender, you’re a targeted demographic. It’s estimated that on a daily basis, we’re exposed to some 5,000 ads, according to a CBS News report, compared to 500 a day in the 1970s.
There is little debate that addiction is a complex disease of the brain (though those who disagree, do so loudly). Addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition characterized by compulsively seeking the addictive agent. For most people, this makes total sense as it concerns drugs and alcohol, but what about smartphones, certain foods or even television shows?
It’s become almost impossible to go an entire day without using a smartphone. Even when it’s not ringing or we’re not receiving texts, we’re thumbing through apps and social media sites. For many people, it’s impossible to live without a car, even though your city might have excellent public transportation.
Some Things We Don’t Commonly Consider to be Addictions:
- Internet/social media
Companies hawking their wares need consumers to get addicted (or obsessed) in order to improve their bottom line, and we’re not just talking about alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Getting people addicted is a cottage industry where businesses spend millions of dollars to ensure the results are a positive gain in their quarterly results. “As a culture, we’ve become upset by tobacco companies advertising to children,” Yale professor, Kelly Browell, told The New York Times. “But we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing.”
What does all this dependency add up to? Polls have shown that over the last two years, Americans are increasingly unhappy as compared to other countries. The pressure to have more and “keep up with the Joneses” can become obsessive, creating anxiety and depression issues that leak into other areas of our lives.
As Americans, we pride ourselves on our Freedom, but real freedom comes from a lack of dependency. In the same way that a heroin addict is stressed about getting their next fix, many of us worry about whether or not we’ll be able to find a WIFI hotspot that’s fast enough to adequately suit our needs. Yet, these things are often out of our control because of how our society is structured. We have to work. We have to find that WIFI hotspot. We have to have a smartphone in case our computers don’t work and the office needs to contact us.
While we can’t totally divest ourselves of these daily dependencies, we might be able to better manage them. Focusing on the important aspects of life, like our loved ones, friends and family, or even donating our time to a charitable cause can get us outside of ourselves. Perhaps taking public transportation or riding a bike one day a week and “unplugging” on weekends will ease our levels of stress.
Breaking our culture of dependency isn’t easy, but it is possible.
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