The perils of work and research addiction

This is the story of an addiction, one that walks the fine line between construction and destruction. It’s a tale of work addiction, a cautionary tale for those who find themselves choosing work over home or self. But the narrative doesn’t end there, for it remains perplexing how work, while constructing livable lives for those ensnared by its allure, simultaneously dismantles their existence.

The addicted seek solace in mythologies that exalt the virtues of work over family and self, yearning for answers. They turn to mentors who have themselves sacrificed kin and self at the altar of work. With time, the addicted evolve, transitioning from seekers to scholars, driven to educate and innovate. The addiction takes hold, and the art of research transforms into an obsession with research itself. The addicted leap from one idea to another, one thought to the next, compelled to publish anywhere and everywhere.

Yet, this compulsion exacts a price. The addicted must not only pay with money and currency to predatory open-access publishers but also with their precious me-time and home-time, consumed in the pursuit of publishable research. Before sharing their work, they must present it at conferences, engaging with fellow academics and experts. As their addiction deepens, they find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of touring, futilely trying to satisfy their insatiable craving for conferences.

Then, the pandemic strikes, and artificial intelligence infiltrates their lives, flooding them with webinars and an avalanche of thoughts. The addiction shape-shifts to maintain a stranglehold, compelling the addicted to keep their lives on auto-loop playback. This often results in amplified chaos when their loved ones too become ensnared by contagious addictions.

Whether the vice is physical, psychological, social, economic, or spiritual, the initial constructiveness of any vice invariably degenerates into destructiveness before being reborn as another vice. This cycle continues until the systems fostering addictive behavior address the need for balance in the lives of those ensnared—whether it’s work addiction, research addiction, conference addiction, webinar addiction, or even just thought addiction.

Ultimately, this is the story of an addiction that reminds us of the delicate equilibrium we must maintain in our lives, lest we too find ourselves ensnared by its relentless grasp.

Deepak Gupta is an anesthesiologist.

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