Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Just like a pill

Will Baude defends book addiction. At least at Chicago, if not in some larger segments of the world, a person who reads books all the time is considered admirable, even if all that is gained by this reading is that the reader is entertained. Even if the same can be gained by another person through watching movies, eating rice cakes, or gossipping. And a person who exercises all the time might well end up looking like this:

Which is really a net gain for the world, when you think of it.

But...lost the thought...oh yes, talking about how "horrible" it is that you read too much, work out too much, study too much, win too many Nobel Prizes, etc., isn't going to elicit much sympathy. That's because, while as Baude points out, his relationship to books sure looks like an addiction, it just, well, isn't.

An activity should only be called an addiction if a person feels some degree of shame in admitting to it. An 8th grader proud of his pot "habit" is not an addict; a 40-year-old toking up in secret every day might be. That way, addiction can be defined as somewhere between "something a person enjoys doing frequently" and "substance abuse." Somehow I doubt this redefinition will catch on, though.

4 comments:

Maureen said...

Um... I feel slight embarrassment in admitting that I've read the "Look Inside" features on books at Amazon.com which I have no intention of buying (but, in all fairness, may decide to check out from a library someday). But I'm rather proud of the "addiction" itself.

Jane said...

Just so you know - 8th graders CAn be addicted to marijuana. I've seen kids as young as 12 addicted to heroin.

Phoebe said...

I was redefining addiction. For no reason, and I didn't explain it quite right.

Will Murray said...

I think this definition exhibits the (imnsho) harmful tendency to overmedicalize things. Addition really should have a sharp definition and I think chemical dependency and presence of withdrawal syndromes really are the best standards. Shame is fuzzy.