Director and animator Yan Dan Wong brings to life philosopher Alain De Botton’s theories about addiction for The School of Life. In Why We Are All Addicts, Wong and De Botton challenge the common conceptions of addiction, in attempts to prove De Botten’s theory that we are all addicts.
De Botton’s main claim is that, in the same way, that addicts drink, smoke, or shoot up distractions from inner pain, the rest of society use work, sports, and social media in a similar addictive manner to escape our inner thoughts and emotions. This is not exactly a new form of thought, especially with the rise of social media. Viral projects like photographer Eric Pickersgill’s series in which he photoshopped the phones out of photos demonstrate how disconnected from reality the world is becoming fit perfectly into De Botton’s arguments.
Wong uses colour as a visual representation of alienation. At first, when discussing the separation that “stock images” of addiction give us from relating to or addressing ourselves as an addict, Wong paints the addict in monochrome, while the rest of the population is presented in colour. As De Botton challenges the perception of addiction, Wong presents two selves: the inner, monochromatic addict, and the outer presentation of ourselves, coloured to show our perceptions of self as addiction free.
Wong and De Botton suggest that the solution to this internal addiction is the fusion of the inner and outer self, doing so only by embracing the inner you, that harbours unattractive thoughts and emotions. De Botton goes as far as suggesting that the opposite of addiction is philosophy, in which we can examine the contents of our own minds, and live in full colour. It is interesting, though, that an argument that chastises society for having such a black and white outlook on addiction would offer such a black and white solution for this seemingly unavoidable problem.