Depression, diapers and digital prosthesis
It is well known in clinical research, that there is a connection between depression and addiction, and that the arrow points both ways. If you are in a compulsive relationship to something it is well documented that it at some point can result in a depressive collapse. Research also shows that if you are depressive, you are more prone to develop an addiction as a type of antidote. The two illnesses tend to thrive off one another, creating a continuous cycle. This is often referred to in clinical research as the double demon. A circular destructive motion, that seem to continue in eternity.
Depression is the disease of the 21st century. An alarming number of people experience some sort of depression throughout their life. Writer David Foster Wallace suggested in his monstrous novel Infinite Jest from 1996, that all people in the western part of the world have become addicts. Addicts to all sorts of things - drugs, work, phones, TV-shows - and these addictions are allegedly related to the great number of depressions out there. More than ten years later, it is more true than ever. We are addicts.
Werner Herzog’s film Lo and Behold from 2016 discusses the addiction to the screen. Herzog visits a rehabilitation center for internet addiction near Seattle, called reSTART, treating patients down to the age of 13. They had a case of a boy getting his leg amputated because he got a severe embolism from inactivity. He was in front of the screen playing video games all day long.
We learn that it is not uncommon that in South Korea, teenage video gamers put on diapers. This way they avoid losing points by going to the bathroom. In China and South Korea people are literally dying in front of the computer because they are playing video games 40, 50, 60 hours at a time, and completely neglecting their body’s physical needs. A South Korean girl died of malnutrition because her parents were at the internet café, completely addicted to playing a video game, where they had to take care of a young girl. They went to jail.
There is coercion in addiction, but there is also freedom. The addiction offers an escape from the life or the depression. A deep immersion in modern things like social media, TV-shows or video games offer a sense of forgetting the self. That motion can be regarded as an attempt to replace your own degenerated self with the self of others. A surrogate.
But the logic of desire is that you will never get satisfied. Nothing will be enough. You want more heroine, more video gaming, more fame. But that will dry out eventually. When there is an abundance of desire for an object, there is a risk of a collapse. You get caught in the logic of the addiction, reach a hole, and fall in. The depression can be regarded as dried out desire. A miserable place of fatigue and despair. When there is nothing left.
The phone or the computer has become a prosthesis of the modern human. Not only an expansion of our hands and our bodies, but an expansion of our minds and our brains. That development is not necessarily entirely bad, but it is probably not entirely good either. If there is a freedom in the escapism it is not a particularly healthy one.
In his essay, This is Water published in 2009, David Foster Wallace writes that we have become passive extras in our own lives. That the opposite of freedom is the addiction to habits and routines. The routines of minding our own business. The unconsciousness. Attached too much to our digital prosthesis, we write ourselves into the story of the unconscious escaping from our lives. And Wallace writes that we do not experience freedom in the unconscious state.
»The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom«.
With awareness and attention we assume a position where we can decide what habits we want to arrange our lives around. What things we want to continue doing, and what things we want to change. If our lives should simply be an extrapolation of our current state or full of choice and change.