The Intercollegiate Student Magazine

Generation Junkie

Abstract art of different colors pouring out of a cup

“Men are more easily governed by their vices than their virtues.”

—Napoleon Bonaparte 

Such as it is true that to err is to be human, one would also be correct in assuming that everyone is an addict in one way or another. The word ‘addict’ carries nefarious connotations, but you don’t have to be hooked on heroin to possess your own habitual compulsions. Have you noticed that gnawing feeling in your gut when you cannot check your phone during class? An overwhelming sense of frustration when you haven’t had your morning coffee? What about that strange physical inability to close TikTok after hours of mindless scrolling? 

Unless you commit yourself to a remote Tibetan monastery, living a life devoid of vices is impossible. In fact, the case could be made that life is not lived to the fullest without a little indulgence, and I agree—but my generation has crossed the line of occasional vice into the domain of hedonism, obsession, and excess. Sure, our parents may have smoked hash in public parks and spent the eighties enjoying the various pleasures of the early days of Wall Street, but for Gen Z, carnality is synonymous with culture. 

Blame it on the unavoidable, constant stimulation of the modern age or the slow, messy decline of the West; Gen Z is a generation of junkies. Cast aside those trivial addictions like fruity vapes and prescription pills—young adults have been hard-wired to seek out high-intensity dopamine hits from extremely low levels of effort. 

A bout of personal insecurity can easily be solved by posting a selfie on your Instagram story and watching the likes flow in. However, once the validation generated by the carefully curated, often manipulated and filtered, thirst trap quickly dissipates, the individual is left with the initial feeling of insecurity and a self-imposed sense of exploitation and desperation. 

While fascinating, social media addiction has been discussed ad nauseam by authors far more qualified than myself. The Gen Z drug of choice I find most interesting is the way that political discourse has transformed from a niche bourgeois interest and dinner party conversation into a dominant personality trait that often borders on obsession, especially among young adults. 

If you happen to be fortunate enough to live behind a blissful veil of ignorance in regard to American political culture, diagnosing the root cause of political addiction is difficult. However, this newfangled postmodernism hullabaloo has created an inseparable connection between identity and civic pedagogy. This has resulted in a large swath of Gen Z gravitating towards extreme levels of political tribalism, self-victimization, and unwavering, vicious belief perseverance. 

Young adults now have the ability to gain community, validation, and a powerful sensation of martyrdom by allowing political involvement to dominate their social circles and hobbies. The euphoria of “owning” someone in a political debate is addictive. The best part is, you actually don’t have to do anything to get that precious hit of virtue; you can share a pastel infographic on your Instagram story to make sure everyone knows that you are a moralist educating your philistine followers in dogmatic liberalism. 

Before the Instagram infographic era, civic engagement required regular and extensive analytical research and critical thinking to reap the benefits of effectively engaging in debate and activism. The consequences of the diminished barrier to entry require politics as a pedagogy to transition away from scholarship and into absurdity and theater. As a result, those seeking the dopamine hit of winning an argument or maintaining the moral high ground can quickly join the tribe of political junkies. 

Prolific contrarian and one of my personal heroes, Hunter S. Thompson, put it best:

“Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is. They are addicts, and they are guilty, and they do lie and cheat and steal—like all junkies. And when they get in a frenzy, they will sacrifice anything and anybody to feed their cruel and stupid habit, and there is no cure for it.”

In Generation Junkie, individuals will not hesitate to insult, defame, and threaten their political adversaries in hopes of tasting that sweet, sweet argumentative victory from behind their screens. 

I have watched peers fall so deep into the throes of political addiction that they effectively alienate themselves from not only friends but from reality itself. They seem to forget that there is life outside of whatever the news cycle has deemed the most important topic of the day, constantly chasing the highs of righteousness. 

If this piece makes you question your own status as a political junkie, consider taking a break from the political influencers, podcasts, and content creators who make money off of your outrage. Talk to someone who holds beliefs so deplorable to you that they might as well be from the Middle Ages, and try not to say anything mean about their character while you do so. I can guarantee it’s much easier than you may think, and I can also guarantee that you’ll probably learn something from absconding from your echo chamber. 

Alas, in the spirit of optimism, I do believe there is a solution to the political epidemic. Although we were raised in a hostile political environment from the start, Gen Z is partially responsible for our affinity for tribalism. We are even more responsible for solving the deep sense of alienation and animosity we hold towards one another. In order to defeat political addiction, one is required to step away from their own self-interest and into the good of the community that exists for their benefit. We need a little bit of political rehab, a break from the news, and, more importantly, a break from the judgment of others. 

~ Also Read ~

Louisiana State University

The populace is ill-equipped at rigorously filtering through the wildfire of information produced by the digital age.