Growing to become a big social challenge affecting all aspects of the American society, addiction rates have escalated to enormous proportions within the country as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)....
Addiction and Recovery It has become one of the major social problems of our day, leaving a great number of families and communities within our country devastated and without hope of recuperation for any of their afflicted members and loved ones.
Just like the fish that doesn’t know it’s in water, we are so immersed in a literate environment (Ong would say “prison”) that we cannot easily question or assess its impacts (or constraints) on us. We are happily addicted. Our obsession is a mark of distinction. We are blind to the possibility of a future beyond literacy, beyond our drug.
Our concepts of addiction or dysfunction are clearly culturally shaped. We are comfortable talking about these in relation to TV, video games, the Internet, and many other things but reading is absolved of this.
What we call addiction with respect to TV, gambling, gaming, or the Internet is not so described for reading. How is compulsive gambling (in-person or online) different than compulsive reading? Outcome? Social value? Risk? Benefit? Or simply the odds of good things happening (which, admittedly, are far better for reading than gambling).
There is a spurious aspect to your argument. Heavy reliance on a particular tool for apprehending the human condition does not in itself constitute addiction, withdrawal symptoms notwithstanding. Are we addicted to the use of our eyes, our ears, our skin? The deleterious effects of sensory deprivation are well documented. Does that make sensual apprehension of our world the equivalent of a heroin addiction? Your argument is prone to the errors that come out of thinking by association. Maybe the addiction here is not our attachment to literacy, but our nostalgia for psychoanalytic thinking. Maybe a better title for the book is: Beyond Freudianism.
Excessive use, withdrawal, and negative repercussions (“tolerance” sounds a bit like impatience or anxiety); this sounds like many of the readers I know. Is reading an addiction or, more pointedly, a pathology?
Just think of those reading a book while walking or standing in an elevator (although perhaps this latter is as much social distancing as reading addiction). And what about those people reading their smartphones while driving? This is an extraordinarily dangerous habit (compulsion?) yet all too common. These people have made a clear choice of reading over safety.
Block wants Internet addiction formalized with an entry in DSM-V (the new edition of the standard classification of mental disorders expected in 2013). He outlines the key characteristics:
Much has been written about Internet addiction. According to Jerald Block (“Issues for DSM-V: Internet Addiction”, 2008), South Korea is a country that takes this affliction very seriously and estimates that over 210,000 of its citizens are affected. For China the number is 10 million.
I was looking forward to this chapter because I have sometimes wondered if I have a reading addiction. Addictions by nature tend to blind the user to the negative consequences, so I’m open to the challenge that I might be reading addicted. I’m open, but not persuaded by what I’m reading in this chapter.
A search for “reading addiction” turns up over 80,000 hits on Google. A scan suggests that the vast majority use this term ironically. They are boasting about their obsession with books and reading. This addiction is a badge of honour, a status symbol.
But after her marriage ended due to her husband’s affair, Patricia became insecure, and started exploring dating sites on the internet – soon, Patricia was going on dates, sex dates - and in an interview with the Philadelphia Weekly, she admits that she is addicted to sex, and there is a problem....
According to the Casa Colombia research, one in seven people, ages 12 and older are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or some other kind of opiate drug (“What Is Addiction”).
Reading a book in an elevator? That is hardly withdrawal; no one talks in elevators anyway. It’s true that addictions by nature tend to isolate the addict from others, as a mechanism to perpetuate the addiction. The idea that reading makes readers anti-social is a tired stereotype which research has shown to be false. Take for example both the Reading at Risk study (NEA, 2004) and their followup report, To Read or not to Read (2007). Both showed that literary readers are more likely to participate in cultural and civic events.