Are you obsessed with the Internet?
Note: The research is real, but this post is a mix of my opinions and a bit of jest. Take it as you will. Thanks to Michael for pointing this out to me this morning.
Apparently “internet addiction” is real (or real enough for doctors to charge you for a visit). While the c|Net article is a citation of a citation of an American Journal of Psychiatry article, you can find the original research article here (there’s a link to the full PDF available as well).
According to the journal extract, the characteristics of someone with internet addiction are:
Conceptually, the diagnosis is a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder that involves online and/or offline computer usage and consists of at least three subtypes: excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail/text messaging. All of the variants share the following four components: 1) excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives, 2) withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible, 3) tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use, and 4) negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue.
Do you know someone who’s addicted? Honestly, this sounds like most everyone I work with and even my 74 year old father. While I see the “characteristics” in most everyone, I wonder what the qualifying limits are—how much is “excessive use”?
My job requires me to be online eight hours a day—is that excessive? Should I only work 1–2 hours a day to prevent this mental illness?
I used to spend hours and hours online researching for reports, projects, and such for college—is that excessive? During those times, I did tend to lose track of time, but was that a result of the internet or my depth into my topic of study? Honestly, if I was in a library with books, I’d probably lose track of time just as easily.
I do feel a bit lost without my cell phone or instant messaging. I’m not sure it’s “addictive,” but I’m used to JIT communication that postal mail seems pointless. For example, I did my taxes over the weekend—why would anyone EVER mail their taxes in anymore now that it can be done online or via a third-party product (TurboTax, etc) for free? They even offer auto-withdrawal (/sulk) or auto-deposit. That’s not addictive, that’s just productive!
Now, to the fourth point—negative repercussions. I believe that “lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue” are quite negative, but that the problem lies deeper than simply someone who doesn’t get out enough. So often I think we blame the technology or the tools rather than focusing on the individual and norms. To be totally honest, I’d easily classify as an “addict” under these stipulations—except the negative repercussions: I can’t think of an instance I’ve lied about my usage, I assume I do well at work (I’m still employed) and managed a 4.0 honors in my masters program, I’m rarely socially isolated, but do enjoy time away from humanity, and well, okay, fatigue has got me—there’s never enough hours in the day to sleep!
With most research, it is important to keep in mind that correlation does not imply causation and that an individual who surfs the web, uses email, upgrades their computer regularlly, gets pissed when the Internet service is offline (*cough*Cox Cable*cough*), and doesn’t get enough sleep may be an addict—or they could just be you.
So, are you an addict?