Sex, booze, fags and tweets: We're all addictive creatures and we don't know why

Only addiction can explain tweeting, an activity that appears to be so without sensual satisfaction in itself, but whose side effects are so damaging


Addictions are for addicts. There’s no explaining the allure of them to someone who can take anything up and put anything down. I’m not an alcoholic – by which I mean I can go many days without a drink and don’t sit drooling in a shop doorway when I can’t – but I love red wine and am addicted to drinking it on the days I do.

Call it an amateur, part-time addiction. But I’m a mystery to my family who will drink wine only by the thimbleful and if it tastes like Vimto, and a lost cause to my in-laws who think that when you uncork a bottle you let the devil out. My wife is less melodramatic in her condemnation, but she too has trouble understanding the passion I feel for wine, not least as it’s an undiscerning passion some of the time, and when I’m not concentrating I can’t tell the difference between a corked 2013 Jacob’s Creek and a 1950 Petrus Pomerol. “Exactly,” I argue. “It is for me, you see, a holiday from my critical faculties.”

She argues in return that it’s a holiday from all my faculties. “What I don’t get is why you want to part company from your reason,” she says, genuinely puzzled. I explain that I don’t, that losing my reason, like losing my balance, is only a side effect. If I could drink red wine and stay as lucid as John Locke, or even just stay upright, I would. It’s the relaxed expansiveness I seek, not the being blurry.

But I must accept responsibility for the side effects. Since another of them is the shortening of my life, I’d be a fool not to do some balancing of this with that, as I did when I stopped smoking. Of the sensory pleasures it is acceptable to admit to in polite society, drinking red wine has only ever been equalled for me by smoking.

I took it up when I was about 18 and stopped when I was 35. By that time, I was on 60 a day and so enjoyed the hand-to-mouth ritual of lighting up that I sometimes had three going at the same time. Three at a time, I reasoned, reduced 60 a day to 20 a day, but there was no telling that to my chest which had begun to groan like an old people’s home.

I am over the melancholy of quitting now, until I pass a table of smokers braving the cold and the rain, and then it comes back to me how much pure, unassociated pleasure it gave me, how much I have sacrificed merely in order to live a little longer. “It is not growing like a tree,” wrote Ben Jonson, favouring quality of life to quantity. “And in short measures life may perfect be.” But then Ben Jonson was perfectly dead by my age.

If you’ve never smoked, you won’t understand why another person does. No point being censorious. You have simply to accept that it’s a pleasure that has passed you by.

I try to feel this way about tweeting. I don’t mean the tweeting that starts or stops a revolution, but trivial, opinionated tweeting, the social equivalent of a nutter talking to himself in the street. It’s just another compulsion, I tell myself. Alcohol and nicotine release dopamine which makes us feel good until we feel bad, and those for whom tweeting is a drug of choice must experience something similar.

Only addiction can explain an activity that appears to be so without sensual satisfaction in itself – no drawing luxuriously on the touch screen, no sniffing the pungent nose of a smartphone while dozing in an armchair – but whose side effects are so damaging.

A policeman tweets his hate of Thatcher and gets kicked out of the force. A teenage girl, appointed to head the Met or something similar – I haven’t followed the case closely – is discovered to have tweeted obscenities in earlier days, though you wouldn’t think that at 15 there are “earlier days”, and is sent home humiliated. Did neither pause for a second to count the possible cost? For even at 15 the concept of “cost” is not unknown. I was 15 once and counted nothing else.

Certainly cost would not have been unknown to those who, with nothing to go on but a predisposition to think ill of a rich Tory, wrongly named McAlpine a paedophile. But they, too, were unable to stop their fingers doing that which their common sense, if not their politics, should have cautioned them against. Day breaks, the phone blinks on the pillow like a one-eyed lover, and without pausing to clean your teeth, make coffee or consider consequences, you finger it.

So maybe I am wrong to liken tweeting to drinking and smoking. Maybe it’s more like sex. Bad sex at that – repetitive and embarrassing to behold, one of the parties to the act hunched over unprettily in a hurry to be done, the other inert, a mere instrument of someone else’s will.

It’s only sex, at any rate, for which we are prepared to risk such ignominy. Smoking and drinking merely ruin our bodies; for sex we put our good name on the line, don’t care how big a fool we end up looking or whether we lose our homes or livelihoods. The addiction is upon us and that’s that.

I make no judgement. I don’t say there are better ways to pass the time. We are all addictive creatures, stumbling through the empty rituals of life without ever knowing why. But it behoves tweeters to admit their addiction like the rest of us.

Get down to Tweeters Anonymous, for God’s sake. “Hello, my name is Sadshmuck and I tweet.” With luck you won’t be on your own. But remember to sit on your hands and use the spoken word. Tweeting your admission doesn’t count as an admission

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits