I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Addicted to the Internet???

Here are some snippets from a post in The Post:
(my running commentary is in bold - because...er, hum...my comments are so important.) (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/10/AR2006111001571.html)
A few months ago, it wasn't unusual for 47-year-old Carla Toebe to spend 15 hours per day online. She'd wake up early, turn on her laptop and chat on Internet dating sites and instant-messaging programs -- leaving her bed for only brief intervals. Her household bills piled up, along with the dishes and dirty laundry, but it took near-constant complaints from her four daughters before she realized she had a problem....

Toebe's conclusion: She felt like she was "addicted" to the Internet. She's not alone.

Concern about excessive Internet use -- variously termed problematic Internet use, Internet addiction, pathological Internet use, compulsive Internet use and computer addiction in some quarters, and vigorously dismissed as a fad illness in others -- isn't new. As far back as 1995, articles in medical journals and the establishment of a Pennsylvania treatment center for overusers generated interest in the subject. There's still no consensus on how much time online constitutes too much or whether addiction is possible.

But as reliance on the Web grows -- Internet users average about 3 1/2 hours online each day, according to a 2005 survey by Stanford University researchers -- there are signs that the question is getting more serious attention.....

Ok, but here is the debate:

"There's no question that there are people who are seriously in trouble because of the fact that they're overdoing their Internet involvement," said Ivan K. Goldberg, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York....

Jonathan Bishop, a researcher in Wales specializing in online communities, is more skeptical. "The Internet is an environment," he said. "You can't be addicted to the environment.".....

"The Internet problem is still in its infancy," said lead study author Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist and director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford. No single online activity is to blame for excessive use, he said. "They're online in chat rooms, checking e-mail every two minutes, blogs. It really runs the gamut. [The problem is] not limited to porn or gambling" Web sites.

The Question, as Jonathan Bishop puts it, is this: How can you be addicted to an environment? I go to church every week, and I feel like I need to spend time with certain people - and with people in general. Does that make me addicted to spending time with people? Is it any worse for people who spend hours building community with people online - via message boards, email, chats, blogs, etc.?

Many online discussion boards -- with names such as Internet Addicts Anonymous, Gaming Addiction and Internet Addicts Recovery Club -- focus on Internet overuse and contain posts from hundreds of members. On such boards, posters admit that they feel as though they can't step away from their computers without feeling drawn back and that their online habits interfere with personal relationships, daily routines and their ability to concentrate on work or school.

OK, so this is also very interesting: What would keep a person tied into the internet - locked into cyber space? Well, I think that what happens is that someone's world becomes the internet. In other words, the "real" world is no longer all that real anymore. The world wide web is more relevant and significant. What are the consequences of this shift in life? A shift from the playing field of the material world to the cyber world of the internet?


Melody said...

Well, the problem is you can’t live your entire life on the internet. There are some very basic things, like eating, that can only be done in the real world.

Another problem is that the real world is very different than the internet. I’ve talked to some people who most of their teenage years online, but now regret it because they find their social skills undeveloped in real life.

And while being the king of Rune Scape is great when you’re 14 and your only friends are other nerds online, that particular skill does not help you in college or at work later on. In fact, it is probably something to not mention. Ever.
And while you may develop excellent literary and typing skills, you are leaving other things, like verbal communication, severely malnurished.

Even more problematic is that on the internet it is a million times easier to run away from your problems. Made you best buddy angry? Just block him. Broke up with your ex? Change your e-mail address. Angered the people in charge of you favorite hang out? Get a new IP address and screen name and you are good to go.

You don’t even have to be honest about your problems. No one has to know if you are obesely over-weight, have commitment issues, or are too frightened to leave the house you live in. You can make yourself in to whatever you want to be just by saying it is so.

Reality no longer applies, which is probably why people seem to be addicted to it, like alcohol or drugs. Maybe there is no chemical stimulant, but there certainly is an effect that they cannot get enough of.

ktismatics said...

In response to Melody:
(1) Eating is something you can do while on the internet.
(2) “The real world is very different from the internet.” Let’s hope so – otherwise what’s the point? Besides, doesn’t a lot of the stuff that’s valued in the real world seem awfully silly and arbitrary and artificial?
(3) Childhood is its own reward; it’s not valuable just as an unpaid traineeship for adulthood. Go ahead and play; work later.
(4) The internet provides a buffer against social constraints that too often get in the way of honest communication. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for civil discourse and mannerly conduct. But internet relationships aren’t as bogged down with social expectations about what kind of discourse will be tolerated. Besides, it is kind of nice to be able to engage someone at a fairly intense level for awhile and then just walk away when it’s over. And no, I’m not talking about sex.
(5) “You can make yourself into whatever you want to be just by saying it is so.” Why not?

Melody said...


1)You can eat while you are surfing the net, but you must actually consume the food in the physical world. ;)

2)Mmmm, I always thought the point of the internet was communication and accessability of ideas/commiditues, but I could be wrong. It could excist purely as an alternative to real life.

We value the same thing whether we are on the internet or not. Otherwise what is the point of lying and telling someone that you are a successful business man when you are really living on your parent’s couch or that you are prom queen when actually no one at school knows your name?
These people are not rejecting misplaced values, they are embracing them in the only way they know how.

3)Childhood is the foundation that we build the rest of our lives on. Not that children shouldn’t play games, my sister and I just purchased a year’s membership to runescape for our very favorite 14 year old nerd. But it is important also not to neglect other skills, that’s why we send children to school and encourage them in extracuricular activities. Fortunately our brother is extracuriculared up to his eyeballs, so he’ll probably turn out to be a well rounded sort of nerd, but he he probably wouldn’t be if he spent 15 hour a day on the internet.

4)It is nice to be able to talk to people on the internet without dealing with them in real life. I love it and I’ve spent many a fond hour engaging in that very activiy.

But this same buffer will also teach people that they can say horrible things to someone and just walk away. In real life you will eventually run up against someone who will beat that out of you, but not on the internet.

It’s also a lot harder to catch the nuances of conversation. You can’t tell when someone is lying, you don’t know if they’re being sarcastic (agony!), and there is no eye contact or facial expressions. Some people go their entire lives without being able to interpret these things, and the internet is not helping.

5)I guess I have a problem with just being able to be anything at all to people. It is decietful for one and for another it taks away the importance of it. If you can be anything on the internet why on earth would you work for that same thing in real life?

In Closing:
Don’t misunderstand, I love the internet. I have a blog and a xanga, frequent a couple message boards, have several instant messaging devices and use e-mail to keep in touch with family and friends. I’m not talking about problems with the internet, I’m talking about the problems in living on the internet.

ktismatics said...

On the other hand... in some ways the internet is too much like real life. There are benefits to be had in remaining isolated from social interactions, whether face-to-face, telephonic or textual. New ideas, works of art, well-formulated personal opinions -- many things depend on fairly long periods of isolation. Too much social exposure too soon may end up short-circuiting the incubation process.

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