“Here in our glistening citadel of limitless reflecting screens we live on the outside. Today we may awaken and instantly and unthinkingly reach for the phone, its glow reaching our eyes before the light of dawn, its bulletins dart into our minds before even a moment of acknowledgement of this unbending and unending fact: you are going to die.” So opens Mr Russell Brand’s latest book, Recovery, which walks the reader through the traditional 12-step programme to overcoming addiction, with the objective that any addiction – however insidious or seemingly trivial – can be effectively cured, or at least improved.
High up on the list of our sneaky addictions is, unsurprisingly, social media. It’s much less conspicuous and much harder to identify than a heroin addiction (a personal battle Mr Brand makes reference to in his book), but those of us who make our somnambulant way through the world with our thumbs endlessly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter feeds can attest that social media addiction isn’t just for 14-year-old Snapchat fanatics. What’s more, it’s having a deleterious effect on our mental health, with a wealth of studies reporting that social media is causing a surge in stress, anxiety and depression.
Still, Mr Brand believes that, like drug addiction, these digital infiltrations can be beaten by applying the 12-step programme in the same way that you would to any other kind of out-of-control compulsion. “Normally you don’t get into [the 12 steps] unless you’ve got a severe problem, but I think it works for less severe problems that are existentially costly, like the feeling of biliousness of looking at a screen, reading pointlessness, and wasting your life,” he says. To get the full benefit of the 12-step programme, you’ll obviously have to read the book, but in the interest of those with social media-abused attention spans, we spoke to Mr Brand about how understanding online addiction can make all of our lives better, and have condensed his words of wisdom into this handy five-point guide.